In a development that confirms Pakistani government's acknowledgement of defeat in front of India publicly, a Pakistan leader claimed that fearing an attack by India, the Imran Khan government had abruptly released Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
IAF's Wing Commander Varthaman had landed in Pakistani custody in February 2019 after a dogfight between Indian and Pakistani pilots.
In a speech in the National Assembly, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) leader Ayaz Sadiq recalled on Wednesday that Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in an important meeting had pleaded to release Wing Commander Varthaman. Qureshi pointed out that if Pakistan did not release Varthaman, India would attack Pakistan "that night by 9 pm", as reported by Pakistani media website Dunya News.
The PML-N leader told opposition leaders that Qureshi in a meeting with the parliamentary leaders, including PPP and PML-N and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, had asked for Abhinandan to be let free.
"I remember Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in the meeting in which Imran Khan had refused to attend and Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa came into the room, his legs were shaking and he was perspiring. Foreign Minister said for God`s sake let Abhinandan go, India`s about to attack Pakistan at 9 pm," Sadiq recounted the events of the important meeting, as reported by Dunya News.
As per Dunya News, Sadiq also said that the opposition has supported the government in all issues including Abhinandan but "will not be able to further support it".
During a counter-attack in response to the Balakot airstrike in February 2019, Wing Commander Varthaman while flying the MiG 21 Bison, was chasing Pakistani F-16 fighters, which had transgressed into the Indian airspace and shot it down. During a dog fight between Indian and Pakistani air force in February 2019, his plane crossed over to Pakistani side and was also shot down.
Wing Commander Varthaman ejected safely but was taken into custody by the Pakistan Army upon landing. He was held captive for nearly 60 hours before being released to India. Wing Commander Varthaman was returned to India from the Attari-Wagah border on March 1, 2019. He was also conferred with the Vir Chakra gallantry award in August 2019, in honour to his heroic deeds.
Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the release of Varthaman, terming his decision "a peace gesture".