DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar holds press conference to set the record straight on IAF Commander Abhinandan's release
RAWALPINDI: DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar said Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was released according to the provisions of the Geneva Convention and that linking it to anything else is "misleading".
The DG ISPR was addressing a news conference on Thursday where he said that raising questions about Abhinandan's release was making Pakistan's clear victory over India controversial.
He spoke to media hours after a statement was issued by PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq the previous day, who said the Indian pilot was released by the Imran Khan-led government out of fear of an Indian attack.
"This, in my opinion, is not acceptable to any Pakistani," said the DG ISPR. "Such a narrative will have direct consequences on Pakistan's national security and the enemy is taking full advantage of this in the information domain."
The DG ISPR said that at a time when Pakistan was facing a hybrid war, it was important for anyone to act responsibly. He said that Pakistan's military leadership is abreast with the security situation of the region and knew about the internal and external challenges facing the country.
"Pakistan first demonstrated its capability and resolve after weighing all options, from a position of strength. Pakistan's leadership and its armed forces were ready to deal with any circumstances," he said, referring to the tense situation that evolved after Pakistan downed two Indian aircraft.
The DG ISPR spoke about how Pakistan's "alert and effective" response defeated India's objective. He said that Pakistan's civil and military leaderships were on the same page in responding to Indian hostility.
"We gave them a bloody nose and it is still hurting," he said of the skirmish, adding that India had been embarrassed in front of the whole world after its attack had been successfully thwarted.
"Pakistan gave a befitting response to the enemy in broad daylight," he said, speaking of the events that transpired on February 27. "We downed two fighter jets of the enemy and captured Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman," he said, recalling Pakistan's first dogfight with India after the 1971 war.
The military's media spokesperson said that Pakistan's victory over India was recognised by the global community and that the world had appreciated Pakistan's decision to free Abhinandan.
Releasing Abhinandan was a 'mature decision'
Senior analyst Mazhar Abbas — speaking to Geo News — said credit should be given to PM Imran Khan for taking the mature decision to release Abhinandan.
"He gave proof of political maturity and a tense situation was avoided," said Mazhar about the prime minister. "Some political differences should exist [between the government and the Opposition] but there are some state decisions (which should not be made controversial)."
He said it was unfortunate that a mature decision by PM Imran to release the Indian pilot was being dragged into politics. Abbas said that Ayaz Sadiq's statement on Abhinandan was "irresponsible and out-of-context".
Speaking on the need to appreciate wise and mature decisions, Abbas pointed out that if one were to criticise Nawaz's decision to invite Vajpayee to Lahore in 1999 for peace talks, that would be unfair.
Abbas further said that when it comes to the Kulbhushan Jadhav issue, the government and Opposition both use it to score political points. "I think when it comes to such issues of national interest, we should be very cautious," he said. "PML-N is Punjab's largest political party, people expect them to demonstrate political maturity."
'Ayaz Sadiq has no control over his words'
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry spoke to Geo News, saying that the former National Assembly speaker had no control over his words.
He said that these statements are issued when the leadership reiterates an anti-state stance again and again. "There are no two opinions that whatever happened after the Pulwama incident, Pakistan trounced India," he said. "We are proud of our army and our air force, in particular for the way they responded to India inside their territory," he added.
Hitting out at the Opposition, Fawad said that countries are run on diplomacy and not on statements. The minister described the decision to release Abhinandan as a diplomatic victory, saying that the DG ISPR's press conference had cleared up confusion if any existed at all.
Ayaz Sadiq questions PM Imran Khan's motives behind delaying meeting on Abhinandan
Sadiq had raised eyebrows when he spoke of an alleged meeting that took place to decide IAF pilot Abhinandan should be released.
“Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was present in the meeting, which Imran Khan had refused to attend,” former speaker Ayaz Sadiq said. He said it was Shah Mehmood Qureshi who had "begged the opposition to release Abhinandan, otherwise, India would attack Pakistan at 9:00 pm".
“India never attacked Pakistan, but the government nonetheless handed over Abhinandan to Indian authorities,” he said.
Sadiq said it was not the Opposition, but the PTI government which passed an ordinance to "facilitate" Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.