Action against Masood Azhar only if India gives solid proof: Pak Minister

Saturday, 02 Mar, 2019

Crowds on the Indian side of the border with Pakistan dwindled late Friday as the wait for the handover of a captured air force pilot dragged on.

Pakistani officials on Friday brought an Indian pilot captured from a downed plane to a border crossing with India for handover, a "gesture of peace" promised by Prime Minister Imran Khan after an earlier dramatic escalation of tensions over the disputed region of Kashmir. Air Vice Marshal R J K Kapoor, an Indian Air Force spokesman, said the force was "extremely happy and looks forward to the return of the Indian pilot".

Indian pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, in a latest video statement, said Pakistan Army personnel saved his life from a charged mob on Feb 27 when he fell to the ground in Pakistan's territory after his jet was shot down by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), ARY News reported.

Tension increased on February 27 when Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian Air Force jets in a major escalation of the long-running Kashmir conflict.

Tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers have faced off for years along the Kashmir boundary known as the Line of Control, in one of the world's most volatile regions.

From day one when this government came to power, (Pakistan) Prime Minister Imran Khan said if you take one step towards peace, we will take two. They fought a third war in 1979 over East Pakistan, which gained independence with the help of India and became Bangladesh.

A parliamentary panel on Friday asked the government to go all out to explain to the global community reasons behind India's decision to carry out air strike on Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp inside Pakistan.

"The announcement of the release [of the Indian pilot] is indeed a good gesture but will not satisfy India, which wants Pakistan to dismantle terror infrastructure", Khoda told BenarNews.

Earlier on Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces a general election in May, told supporters that India would unite against its enemies.

"This is an India that will return the damage done by terrorists with interest", he said.

Both India and Pakistan are believed to possess more than 100 nuclear warheads each and have conducted atomic weapon tests.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting the group, or at least allowing it to operate on its territory and carry out attacks on Indian forces.

India has categorically said that the government will not allow Pakistan to change the mood of the nation, asking for the immediate release of the pilot who is in Pakistan's custody since Wednesday.

Varthaman returned home from Pakistan on Friday to a hero's welcome, two days after he was captured following a dogfight when his MiG 21 was shot down.

Also Friday, Pakistan's top diplomat said he was skipping a meeting of foreign ministers from the world's leading Islamic organization in the United Arab Emirates to protest the host's decision to invite India, a non-member.

Prime Minister Imran Khan's decision to release detained Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman is being welcomed by domestic and global community. According to the Indian Air Force, in the same clash another MiG-21 shot down Pakistan's F-16 of U.S. manufacture.