Pakistan says will free Indian pilot as 'peace gesture'

This handout photograph released by Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on February 27, 2019, shows captured Indian pilot looking on as holding a cup of tea in the custody of Pakistani forces in an undisclosed location. (ISPR via AFP)
Updated 28 February 2019

Pakistan says will free Indian pilot as 'peace gesture'

  • As a peace gesture we are releasing the Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman tomorrow, PM Khan
  • Pakistan has said it downed two Indian fighters

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said Thursday it will release a captured Indian pilot in a "peace gesture", taking a step towards rapprochement as clashes between the nuclear-armed rivals ignited fears of a disastrous conflict.

The pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, has become the face of the crisis since he was shot down in a rare aerial engagement between the South Asian neighbours over the disputed region of Kashmir on Wednesday.

With anger boiling over his capture in India, analysts have touted him as a potential trump card for Islamabad.

"As a peace gesture we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow," Prime Minister Imran Khan told a joint session of parliament.
Parliamentarians stamped their feet in approval at his statement, the first sign of a potential thaw after a dangerous sequence of events between the two countries sent tensions soaring.

Tit-for-tat raids across their hair-trigger border have alarmed world powers including China and the US, who have urged restraint.
Pakistan has said it downed two Indian fighters, while India confirmed it had lost one plane and claimed it had shot down a Pakistani jet.

"I am afraid of miscalculations," Khan said. "We should not even think of war, especially in view of the lethality of the weapons that we have."
However he warned that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi should not misconstrue his desire to de-escalate as "weakness".
"India must know that we will be forced to strongly retaliate against any Indian action in the future," he said.

Wednesday's dogfight and the pilot's capture sparked fears of India and Pakistan -- who have fought two wars and countless deadly skirmishes over the Himalayan region -- entering a cycle of retaliation and counterattacks that could spiral out of control.

Pakistan has closed its airspace indefinitely, and the army said Thursday its troops were on high alert along the Line of Control, the de facto border that divides Kashmir. Authorities have tightened security across the country, with hospitals on alert and leave for police and other security officials cancelled in some cities.

With anger boiling in India over Pakistan's capture of the pilot, Modi called on his citizens Thursday to "stand as a wall" in the face of an enemy that "seeks to destabilise India".

Analysts have said the pilot's fate, and his safe release, could prove central to the neighbours pulling back from the brink.
US President Donald Trump has voiced optimism that the tensions could soon be resolved.

"We have had some reasonably decent news... Hopefully that's going to be coming to an end," he said of the crisis, speaking to reporters in Hanoi after a summit there with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The confrontation erupted after a suicide attack in Indian-held Kashmir killed 40 Indian troops on February 14.
New Delhi blamed the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group for the attack. Twelve days later Indian warplanes launched a strike inside Pakistani territory, hitting what it said was a militant training camp.

An infuriated Islamabad denied major casualties or damage, but a day later launched its own incursion across the Line of Control which sparked the dogfight that ended in Abhinandan's capture.

A viral video apparently taken shortly after his plane was shot down purportedly showed Abhinandan being dragged and beaten by a group of men as Pakistani soldiers intervened, shouting "Stop! Stop!"

Mohammad Faisal, the Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters Thursday that the pilot had "some mishap before our officers reached there because he was caught by the public".

But he stressed the pilot was now "with us, he is safe and in good condition".

A video released by the Pakistani military later showed Abhinandan sipping tea, his face swollen and sporting bruises but otherwise collected and calm.
He thanked the "thorough gentlemen" who rescued him from the mob and complimented the tea as "fantastic". It was unclear if he had been coerced to speak.

Kashmir has been divided and disputed by India and Pakistan since 1947. The two countries have fought two of their three wars over the region.


Pakistan recognizes Saudi efforts to bring Khashoggi’s killers to justice — FO

Updated 27 February 2021

Pakistan recognizes Saudi efforts to bring Khashoggi’s killers to justice — FO

  • Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018 in Istanbul while doing paperwork related to his divorce
  • Pakistan says Saudi Arabia took all possible measures to convict and sentence people responsible for the gruesome crime

ISLAMABAD: The foreign office of Pakistan on Saturday expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia after the release of a declassified United States intelligence report containing “assessment” of the Jamal Khashoggi murder case, saying that Islamabad recognized the kingdom’s efforts to bring his killers to justice.

A Saudi journalist, Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018 at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul where he had gone to complete paperwork related to his divorce. 

In an official statement issued in Islamabad, the foreign office noted that the Saudi authorities had described the killing as an “abhorrent crime” and a “flagrant violation of the Kingdom’s laws and values.” 

“The Saudi government has further underlined that it took all possible measures within its legal system to ensure that the individuals responsible were properly investigated, convicted and sentenced and that justice was served,” the statement continued. 

“Pakistan underscores adherence to the rule of law, respect for national sovereignty, and protection and promotion of human rights by all States, in accordance with their respective Constitutional frameworks and international obligations,” it added. 

Saudi Arabia has already rebuffed the contents of the report, saying that it “completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.” 

Its foreign affairs ministry noted that people responsible for the killing had been convicted and sentenced in Saudi courts and that “these sentences were welcomed by the family of Jamal Khashoggi.”


Peshawar defeats two-time PSL champion Islamabad by 6 wickets

Updated 27 February 2021

Peshawar defeats two-time PSL champion Islamabad by 6 wickets

  • Zalmi’s third straight victory has put it on top of the tournament’s points table
  • Peshawar’s skipper Wahab Riaz led from the front by taking four wickets and conceding 17 runs

KARACHI: Peshawar Zalmi on Saturday outclassed Islamabad United in a one-sided contest, winning its third straight match and reaching the top of the points table by defeating its rival by six wickets in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament.
Peshawar won the toss and invited Islamabad to bat on a wicket where all PSL matches during this season have been won by the teams chasing, including those who faced the daunting challenge of making over 190 runs.
Zalmi took early wickets and dismissed United for the tournament’s lowest total of 118 runs in 17.1 overs.
In response, Peshawar cruised to 122-4 with 17 balls to spare. Haider Ali hit three sixes and three fours in 36 off 18 balls.
Zalmi was 6-2 when it started batting, but Tom Kohler-Cadmore (46) and Shoaib Malik (29 not out) steadied the chase and Ali finished off.
Earlier, Riaz led his team’s strike against Islamabad by taking the wicket of Paul Stirling in the first over. Phil Salt was the second to go after he lost his wicket to English bowler Saqib Mahmood. Salt scored 9 off 11 balls.
Faheem Ashraf who had made significant contributions to his team’s total in the last matches only managed to score two runs. Skipper Shahab Khan was run out on a good throw by Imam-ul-Haq to wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal.
Alex Hales who remained the top scorer of the match for his side (41 off 27) was the next to go to the pavilion. Hussain Talat scored 22 off 15, Iftikhar Ahmed 7 off 12, and Asif 19 off 12.
Wahab Riaz remained the most successful bowler and showed his best performance in PSL tournaments by grabbing four wickets and conceding 17 runs. Saqib Mahmood also demonstrated outstanding bowling skills by taking 4 wickets in 2.1 overs.
Mujeeb-ur-Rehman and Umaid Asif both grabbed one wicket each.
Earlier in the day, Babar Azam helped Karachi Kings win a match against Multan Sultan by hitting his second successive PSL half century.
Babar’s unbeaten 90 off 60 balls — including 13 fours and a six — led Karachi to 198-3 with seven balls to spare in yet another successful chase in Pakistan’s premier Twenty20 league, Associated Press reported.
Multan had earlier spoiled a blistering start and were restricted to 195-6 as Karachi skipper Imad Wasim followed a familiar script of captains putting the opposition into bat after winning the toss.


Babar leads Karachi to 7-wicket win over Multan in PSL

Updated 27 February 2021

Babar leads Karachi to 7-wicket win over Multan in PSL

  • Multan had earlier spoiled a blistering start and were restricted to 195-6
  • All nine league matches in this season’s PSL have been won by the teams chasing, including four successful chases of 190-plus runs

KARACHI: Babar Azam hit his second successive half century in the Pakistan Super League and anchored Karachi Kings to a seven-wicket win over Multan Sultans on Saturday.

Babar’s unbeaten 90 off 60 balls — including 13 fours and a six — led Karachi to 198-3 with seven balls to spare in yet another successful chase in Pakistan’s premier Twenty20 league.

All nine league matches in this season’s PSL have been won by the teams chasing, including four successful chases of 190-plus runs.

Multan had earlier spoiled a blistering start and were restricted to 195-6 as Karachi skipper Imad Wasim followed a familiar script of captains putting the opposition into bat after winning the toss.

“Credit goes to the bowlers first,” Wasim said. “The way we finished at the end was fantastic. We saved almost 15-20 runs at the death.”

Englishman Joe Clarke (54 off 26 balls) took the game away from Multan by combining in an electrifying stand of 97 runs with Babar.

Clarke smashed four sixes against spinners Shahid Afridi and Khushdil Shah and also hit three boundaries in his robust half century before he was caught at short fine leg while attempting to ramp a slow bouncer from Shanawaz Dhani (2-28).

Babar led Karachi to its second win in three games with a six and two fours in succession against fast bowler Sohail Khan in the penultimate over.

Earlier, Multan failed to cash in on Chris Lynn’s robust start (32 off 14 balls) and were cruising along at 72-1 in the first six overs of batting powerplay.

James Vince (45) and skipper Mohammad Rizwan (43) both fell in successive overs of fast bowler Arshad Iqbal (2-36) as Multan slipped to 133-3 in the 14th over.

Karachi came back strongly in the last five overs with their fast bowlers leaking only one boundary. Left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Amir, who earlier started with a maiden over, bowled seven wide balls in his next three overs but got the dangerman Shahid Afridi (3) in the 19th over to finish with 1-34.

After its third loss, Multan slipped to fifth in six-team event with a solitary win against Lahore Qalandars, who are due to meet Islamabad United in Saturday’s other league match.


Pakistan, India can live in peace, downed Indian pilot says in newly released footage

Updated 28 February 2021

Pakistan, India can live in peace, downed Indian pilot says in newly released footage

  • Newly released footage comes days after a ceasefire on Kashmir border was settled by the Indian and Pakistani military
  • Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured on Feb. 27, 2019 when his jet entered Pakistani airspace

ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan can live in peace, an Indian Air Force pilot who was briefly in Pakistani custody in 2019 said in footage circulated by local media organizations on Saturday.  
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured on Feb. 27, 2019 when Pakistan shot down his jet when it crossed the Line of Control (LoC) — the de facto border in Kashmir. A day earlier, Indian warplanes also crossed the border and dropped bombs near Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
No casualties were caused by the attack and Pakistan soon released the Indian pilot in a goodwill gesture.
Parts of the video recorded by the Pakistani Army, including Varthaman's famous praise of the "fantastic" tea he was served by Pakistani officers, were aired already in 2019, but some lines in the footage shared on Saturday, including the pilot's call for peace, are new.
"I want that peace should prevail, and we (India and Pakistan) can live in peace," Varthaman said in the video.
"Wars happen when there is no peace. I don't know what needs to be done to bring about peace, but I do know that there should be peace. And I see no reason for us to continue with any kind of hostilities."
He added: "What is happening to Kashmiris? Neither you nor I know about it ... We should think with a calm mind."
The newly released footage comes after the military operations heads of Pakistan and India said in a joint statement on Thursday that they had agreed to discuss each other’s concerns that could disturb peace and lead to violence along the Line of Control (LoC).
The announcement has been seen as restoring a ceasefire agreement from 2003, which has been fraying in recent years.
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between Pakistan and India as both claim the region in full but rule it in part. Tensions increased in August 2019, after New Delhi withdrew the region's autonomy and split it into federally administered territories. In recent months, cross border firing has become frequent, often killing or maiming people living in the area.


Pakistanis share tea-rrific memes on anniversary of Abhinandan's 'fantastic' cuppa

Updated 27 February 2021

Pakistanis share tea-rrific memes on anniversary of Abhinandan's 'fantastic' cuppa

  • Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was captured on Feb. 27, 2019 and soon released by Pakistan in a goodwill gesture
  • Video in which he said he had been treated well and 'the tea was fantastic' became a viral sensation

RAWALPINDI: Pakistani Twitterati did not miss the chance on Saturday to share new memes of an Indian pilot who two years ago became a social media sensation as he praised Pakistan Army officers for "fantastic tea."

Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured on Feb. 27, 2019 when Pakistan shot down his jet for violating its airspace. He was soon handed over to India in a goodwill gesture, but a video in which he said he had been treated well and "the tea was fantastic" stayed with Pakistanis forever.

In remembrance of Abhinandan's tea, celebratory trends emerged on Pakistani Twitter, followed by new memes and laughs:  #FantasticTeaDay, #HappySurpriseDayIndia, #WorldsBiggestTeaParty.

Retired Pakistan Air Force veteran pilot Air Marshal Shahid Lateef pointed out that Abhinandan's tea was not only fantastic but also expensive as it cost him his MiG-21 jet.

 

 

Pilot and entertainer Fakhr-e-Alam commemorated the day by tweeting out a tongue-in-cheek promotion of Pakistani hospitality and tea.

 

 

Fantastic tea was also combined with another major trend of the day — the ongoing Pakistan Super League — on the cricket event's "strategic timeout" poster.

 

 

Another Twitter user shared a shot of a trail of teacups, writing: “Let’s attract Indian pilots.”

 

 

As four trees fell on the Pakistani side during the Indian operation of Abhinandan was part, on Fantastic Tea Day comedian Ali Gur Pir released an entire track in honor of the fallen wooden heroes.

 

 

As Abhinandan memes continue to entertain Pakistanis, Twitter user Sadaf Ikram shared a photo of the pilot's portrait being used in advertisements and thank him for “fueling creative thinking" in Pakistan.