While Pakistan keeps claiming that India’s Balakot strike was a failure as it did nothing more than uprooting few trees, actually the civilian and military leadership was so scared by it that they feared India will attack if they don’t release captured Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. Contrary to the widely held belief that mounting international pressure was the sole reason that led to Pakistan releasing Abhinandan within two days of his capture by Pakistani military, now it has been revealed that the fear of another Balakot like strike played a major role in the decision.
This was revealed by Ayaz Sadiq, member of Pakistan National Assembly and a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (N). During a debate in the National Assembly on Wednesday, the opposition leaders slammed the Imran Khan government accusing them of fearful towards India. Talking about the decision of hand over Abhinandan to India, Ayaz Sadiq revealed that Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said that India would attack Pakistan if they don’t return Abhinandan.
He said, ‘I was present in the meeting, I remember Shah Mahmood Qureshi was present in the meeting which the prime minister had refused to attend. Chief of Army Staff was present. His legs were shivering, head was sweating, and the foreign minister Shah Mahmood Sahab told us, for the sake of God, let him go now, else India will attack Pakistan by 9 o’ clock.
Ayaz Sadiq said that the foreign minister lied that India was about to attack Pakistan, and Pakistani govt just wanted to kneel down before India and return Abhinandan.
Replying to the allegations of bowing before India in returning the captured IAF pilot, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said that leaders of all the parties had agreed to the decision. He said that he was also present in the meeting, which was attended by leaders of Muslim League (Nawaj), Pakistan People’s Party’s Asif Ali Zardari, and other opposition parties. The minister didn’t deny the claims made by Ayaz Sadiq that Pakistan had feared attack by India. But he asserted that none of the opposition leaders had opposed the decision to return Abhinandan. He said that all the leaders consented to the wisdom of the government.
Appreciating the cooperation of the opposition on that day, the minister slammed the opposition leaders for double speak. He said they are saying opposite things in private and public, as while they had agreed to returning Abhinandan, now they are attacking the govt over it.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistani military on 27th February 2019, when the MiG-21 he was flying was shot down by a Pakistani missile, seconds after he had shot down a Pakistani Air Force’s F-16 aircraft. Abhinandan was part of an IAF sortie which was scrambled to intercept an intrusion by Pakistan fighter planes in Jammu and Kashmir a day after the Balakot strikes. On 28th February, Imran Khan had announced that his govt has decided to return Abhinandan as a “gesture of peace”, and the Wing Commander had crossed the India-Pakistan border at Wagah on 1 March 2019.