Khan announces Abhi’s release as a ‘peace gesture’

He said despite his government’s multiple overtures of peace, the response from New Delhi had not been encouraging.
Photo: Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan (TOI).

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday that his government will release the captured Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman on Friday as a “gesture of peace and as a first step to open negotiations”. 

“We have (the) Indian pilot in our custody. As a peace gesture and as a first step to open negotiations, I announce that we will release him tomorrow (on Friday),” Khan said at the joint session of parliament moments after he had finished his speech and leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif was about to speak.

 Khan said in his address to members of National Assembly and Senate that he had unsuccessfully tried to make a telephonic contact with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday night following the dogfight between Indian and Pakistani fighter jets along the Line of Control in the morning. “I tried to call Indian PM Narendra Modi on the phone yesterday because escalation is neither in our interest nor in India’s,” he said.

 “The only purpose of our strike (on Wednesday) was to demonstrate our capability and will. We did not want to inflict casualties on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner,” he said, adding that Pakistan’s desire for peace and de-escalation with India should not be construed as a weakness. 

He said despite his government’s multiple overtures of peace, the response from New Delhi had not been encouraging. “We realised that it was because of upcoming elections there and decided to wait until the polls in India were over before making another offer for talks,” he told the lawmakers. 

Referring to the Pulwama terror attack, Khan said Indian people should think what made a youngster to become a suicide bomber in Kashmir. “There is need for debate in India on Kashmir,” he said, adding that blaming the Pulwama attack on Islamic radicalization was not correct. 

“India should analyze the phenomenon because it had nothing to do with Islamic radicalization,” he said.

 Citing the example of LTTE in Sri Lanka, Khan said suicide attacks are results of desperation and humiliation.

 Earlier, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a Pakistani TV channel that Islamabad was willing the consider the release of the captured pilot “if such a move will lead to de-escalation”. 

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Office confirmed that a dossier on the Pulwama attack was handed over to the country’s acting high commissioner in New Delhi by the Indian government on Wednesday.

 “The dossier will be thoroughly reviewed by the FO and after that any and all legal evidence will be probed. We will take action against credible evidence provided by India,” the FO said in a statement.

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