ISLAMABAD: Pakistan released an Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, after shooting down his fighter jet during an aerial dogfight over Kashmir in February 2019 to give peace a chance in the region, said the chief of the military’s media wing on Thursday, adding it was “misleading and disappointing” to attribute the country’s decision to anything but its “mature response” as a responsible state.
The statement of Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar came a day after former National Assembly speaker and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said that the government had released the Indian pilot due to fear of an imminent attack from India.
“A statement was given yesterday that tried to distort facts related to a national security issue,” Iftikhar said without naming anyone. “I am here to set the record straight.”
Addressing a news conference with “one-point agenda,” he said that Pakistan’s armed forces displayed their ability to respond to “Indian aggression” last year before releasing the captured pilot in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
“We gave them a bloody nose and it is still hurting,” he said while referring to Pakistan’s response to India’s violation of its airspace in February last year.
The former National Assembly speaker claimed on Wednesday that the government had asked parliamentary leaders to let Abhinandan go, predicting an attack from the country’s nuclear-armed neighbor.
However, Sadiq issued a clarification on Thursday, saying that Indian media was “misreporting” his statement.
Alluding to his words in the National Assembly, the DG ISPR said that the negative narrative was “directly affecting the national security” of Pakistan, adding that India was taking full advantage of it.
“This narrative is being used to minimize India’s defeat and loss,” he said. “It also amounts to creating undue controversy around Pakistan’s clear supremacy and victory over India, and I think this is not acceptable to any Pakistani.”
Asked about recent statements of opposition leaders against the military leadership, he said the armed forces were an organized institution and its rank and file could not be separated.
“No one can create differences between the rank and file of the armed forces,” he said. “There is complete unity and it will continue to remain that way.”
An 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), has accused the security establishment of meddling in politics and helping Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rise to power in the 2018 general elections.
“This political polarization will continue. It will increase. There may emerge a situation where there is a severe constitutional crisis,” Adnan Rehmat, a political analyst, told Arab News. “The opposition would never have targeted state institutions if the government had not subjected its leaders to undue and unfair pressure.”
PML-N leaders, however, denied that they wanted a clash with any institution to make political gains.
“Our protests and struggle against the government is purely democratic and constitutional. We don’t intend to clash with our state institutions,” Malik Abrar Ahmed, a senior PML-N leader, told Arab News.
The country’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, also held a meeting with the prime minister on Thursday to discuss “professional matters pertaining to Pakistan Army, internal and external security situation,” according to the PM Office.