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Pakistan decides to set IAF pilot Abhinandan free

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced that Pakistan will free Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was taken into custody on Wednesday after his MIG-21 was shot down by Pakistan Air Force for intruding into Pakistani air space.

Addressing the joint session of parliament, Prime Minister Imran announced that his government had decided to return Wing Commander Abhinandan to India as a goodwill gesture and to show Pakistan’s commitment to peace. The Indian pilot will be handed over to Indian embassy officials on Friday.

Earlier, President Dr Arif Alvi summoned a joint session of the parliament today at 3:00 pm to send a strong message to India that the entire nation is united to give a befitting answer to Indian aggression.

Reportedly, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan will table a motion to discuss the existential security crisis.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor Wednesday gave an in-camera briefing to the parliamentary leaders regarding Indian aggression and the subsequent Pakistani response.

The briefing, which was held at Parliament, was attended by National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan People’s Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari with respective party delegates. It also had the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa in attendance.

Following the session, a statement was also issued.

“A special meeting of parliamentary leaders was convened at Parliament House today to brief national leadership on the on-going security situation. The parliamentarians were briefed by FM (foreign minister), followed by DG ISPR,” read the statement while adding that “COAS also interacted with the forum after the briefing.”

It also said that the parliamentary leaders unanimously extended their support to the Pakistan Army and the government against any Indian misadventure.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, National Assembly (NA) Speaker Asad Qaiser, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari andEducation Minister Shafqat Mehmood attended the meeting on behalf of the government.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a day after Indian Air Force (IAF) jets violated the Line of Control (LoC), Pakistan Air Force (PAF) conducted strikes across the LoC from Pakistani airspace and shot down two Indian MIG-21 aircraft that had crossed the de-facto border.

An Indian pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was also taken into custody by Pakistan Army troops after his aircraft crashed within Pakistani territory while the other aircraft downed by PAF crashed on the Indian side of the LoC.

Following the incident, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation and said that Pakistan has offered to hold peace talks with India previously and is still willing to do so as “terrorism is not in Pakistan’s interests”.

Reiterating his stance for a sane solution to the prevailing security crisis, the premier asked the Indian government whether “with the weapons we have, can [Pakistan and India] afford a miscalculation?”

“If it escalates from here where will it go? It won’t be in Modi’s or my control. I once again invite you to dialogue. Let me say again that better sense should prevail. We should resolve our problems through dialogue,” he asserted.

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