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'Legs were shaking' at Pak's top leaders' meeting as Qureshi pleaded to release Abhinandan

PTI | Islamabad | Updated: 29-10-2020 20:03 IST | Created: 29-10-2020 19:31 IST
'Legs were shaking' at Pak's top leaders' meeting as Qureshi pleaded to release Abhinandan
Representative image Image Credit: Twitter(@Shah Mahmood Qureshi)

"Legs were shaking and forehead perspiring" at a meeting of Pakistan's top leaders, including Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, wherein Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi pleaded to release Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, saying if he was not released, India would attack Pakistan, a top Pakistani opposition leader has said. Recalling the tension in Islamabad after India bombed a terror training camp in Pakistan's Balakot on February 26, 2019, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq criticised the Imran Khan government over its response, saying the Opposition has supported the government on every issue, including Kashmir and Varthaman, but it will no longer be appropriate to provide any further support, Dunya News reported on Wednesday.

Sadiq, who was the Speaker of the National Assembly during the PML-N government, made a similar statement earlier on Wednesday in Parliament here that Foreign Minister Qureshi in an important meeting pleaded that let Varthaman go back because India is attacking Pakistan. The 37-year-old IAF pilot was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat.

In the early hours of February 26, 2019, the IAF jets bombed the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror camps in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan and avenged the Pulwama terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel. Before his jet was hit, Varthaman downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan. He was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan.

In a speech in the National Assembly, Sadiq said that Prime Minister Imran Khan skipped the high-level meeting, which was attended by top leadership, including Army chief Gen Bajwa and Foreign Minister Qureshi. "Legs were shaking and forehead perspiring, and the foreign minister (Qureshi) told us, 'For God's sake, let him (Varthaman) go back now because India is attacking Pakistan at 9 PM in the night'", Sadiq said, recalling the meeting which was also attended by parliamentary leaders, including those from Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and PML-N, and added that "India was not planning to attack...They just wanted to kneel before India and send back Abhinandan." He did not mention the date of the meeting, but indicated that it was held before the release of Varthaman.

Later, in an apparent damage control act, Sadiq issued a clarification. On Thursday, Sadiq in a video statement said that he was being "misquoted" regarding his statement in the National Assembly. He said that he wanted to say that the decision to release Varthaman showed "a weakness of the civilian leadership".

Commenting on Sadiq's remarks, Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar said on Thursday that his statement was an attempt to "distort history". Pakistan "want to make it clear, for the purpose of correcting the history, that Pakistan first demonstrated its capability and resolve and the actions taken on Feb 27 were from the position of strength," Maj Gen Iftikhar said while responding to queries at a press conference here.

He said that the statement by Sadiq had an impact on national security. "We all have to act responsibly in times when enemies of Pakistan have imposed a hybrid war on the country…Pakistan's armed forces are not only aware of the internal and external challenges, but also ready to face them," he said.



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