In press conference, Army spokesman ‘sets the record straight’ about the events surrounding the arrest and release of downed Indian pilot
Dismissing Indian media reports of Pakistan releasing a captured pilot “out of fear,” Pakistan Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar on Thursday said the armed forces had given the enemy “a bloody nose, and its still hurting.”
“This press conference has a one-point agenda,” the spokesman announced at the outset. He said that he was addressing media solely to set the record straight about the Balakot airstrikes of February 2019 and the events surrounding it. “Yesterday, a statement was issued that sought to blur the history of events linked to national security,” he said, referring to—but not directly identifying—a speech by former National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq in which he had alleged that Pakistan had released downed Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman under threats of war from India. “After the Pulwama airstrike, on Feb. 26, 2019, India violated all international laws in staging an operation against Pakistan,” he said.
“Not only were they rebuffed, but they had to face criticism from the entire world,” he said, adding that the Pakistan Army’s prompt and timely response had defeated the enemy’s intentions.
“Enemy planes that [entered our territory] to drop bombs on Pakistani people panicked at our response and fled after dropping them on mountains,” he said. In response, he said the country’s civilian and military forces both agreed to teach the enemy a lesson. “Pakistan responded to India with its full might in broad daylight,” he said, adding that this had resulted in two of the enemy’s planes being shot down. “Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was arrested,” he said, adding that the “enemy” was so panicked and fearful that it shot down its own helicopter and killed its own soldiers.
“We secured a clear victory over India [that day],” he said. “This victory not only exposed India’s hollow preparedness, but also allowed the entire Pakistani nation to raise its head up with pride,” he added.
Noting that not only was Pakistan’s victory accepted by the global community, he said it had also been validated by India itself claiming that they would have won if they’d possessed Rafale jets.
The DG ISPR said that the government of Pakistan, as a responsible state, had decided to “give peace another chance” and return the captured war prisoner to India in accordance with the Geneva Convention. “This was lauded globally,” he added.
“I want to set the record straight once more. Pakistan, first, demonstrated its capability and resolve. The decision was taken after considering all possible conflict options, and was from a position of strength,” Maj. Gen. Iftikhar said. He stressed that the civil and military leadership were prepared to combat “any sort of situation” with full preparedness. He said that linking the “mature response of a responsible state” in releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan to any other situation was “highly regrettable and misleading,” adding it would be akin to declaring a Pakistani defeat to India.
“In my opinion, this would be unacceptable for any Pakistani,” he said. “Such statements have a visible impact on national stability,” he said, adding that India was taking advantage of this through its media. “This same statement is being used to reduce the extent of India’s defeat,” he said.
“Under the current scenario, when enemy forces are indulging in hybrid warfare against Pakistan, we must all take great care in moving forward responsibly,” he said. “The Pakistan Army is keeping an eye on regional security, and is not only well aware of all internal and external threats, but is also prepared to respond to them,” he said.
“With the aid of our nation, we will defeat all conspiracies against Pakistan and will respond to any aggression in a befitting manner,” he added.
After issuing his press statement, the ISPR DG responded to a single question on alleged attempts to sow division between the rank-and-file and the military leadership. “No one can divide the leadership and the rank-and-file,” he said. “This is the reality now, and will remain the reality.”