IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at Wagah border on Pakistani side on Friday. He is accompanied by Foreign Office Director India, Dr. Fareha Bugti. | Photo Credit: ANI

“Wg Cmdr Abhinandan says he is happy to be back,” says IAF spokesperson in a brief interaction with journalists.Pakistan on Friday released Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured on February 27 after the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) violated the Indian airspace and downed his MiG 21 ‘Bison’ aircraft in an engagement on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

He bailed out and landed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).Reports said he shot down a Pakistan F-16 before being hit.On February 26, India bombed terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM) biggest training camp at Balakot in Pakistan.

This was preceded by the JeM’s car bombing of a CRPF convoy on February 14 that killed 40 personnel of the para-military force in Pulwama.  Major developments on February 28 as they happened: announcement of Wing Commander Abhinandan’s release and a joint armed forces press briefingAt the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meet in Abu Dhabi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj says, “The fight against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion.

It cannot be. Just as Islam literally means peace,none of the 99 names of Allah mean violence. Similarly, every religion in the world stands for peace, compassion & brotherhood.

BSF officials receive IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as he arrives at Attari border on the Indian side on Friday. | Photo Credit: ANI

Here are the latest updates:

9:35 pm

Deputy Commissioner Amritsar Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon says India didn’t ask for the reason for delay in releasing the pilot.When asked if he interacted with Wg. Cmdr. Abhinandan, Mr. Dhillon said the pilot said he was grateful to come back to the Indian soil.

9:30 pm

An Indian Air Force spokesperson speaks. Welcoming Wg. Cmdr. Abhinandan, the spokesperson said he was handed over as per the Standard Operating Procedure. Mr. Abhinandan will now undergo a medical check-up, since he landed after ejecting from an aircraft.”Happy to be back, Wg Cmdr Abhinandan said,” says the spokesperson in a brief interaction with journalists.

9:22 pm

And… Wg Cmdr Abhinandan walks out of Pakistan, crosses the border and arrives in India via Attari.

9:20 pm

PaK Foreign ministry has released the following statement:The captured Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been returned to India today. He was arrested when his military jet MIG-21 crashed in Azad Jammu & Kashmir after being shot down by Pakistan Air Force for violating Pakistani airspace on February 27, 2019. While in captivity, he was treated with dignity and in line with international law. Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Imran Khan announced his return as a goodwill gesture aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India.

9.15 pm

Wing Commander Abhinandan has reached Wagah. He is accompanied by Indian High Commission officials and Pakistan security personnel.The border security personnel on both the sides verify papers.

8 p.m.

Wg Cmdr Abhinandan to be handed over by 9 p.m.Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is still in Lahore. He will be handed over to the Indian side by 9 p.m., say diplomatic sources.

6:15 p.m.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is handed over to Indian High Commission officials at the Wagah border, reports IANS, quoting Indian officials.Informed sources say the pilot was accompanied by Indian High Commission officials from Islamabad.5.50 p.m. No clarity yet on whether the Wing Commander has been handed over or what is the cause of the delay.

5.25 p.m. 

Air Vice Marshal Kapoor and BSF officials to brief the press at the Indian side of the Wagah-Attari border.

5.15 p.m.

Pakistan court rejects plea to stop pilot’s releaseThe Islamabad High Court dismisses a petition filed against the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the case earlier in the day ahead of the pilot’s release, Samaa TV reports. Justice Minallah tells the petitioner that the decision to release the pilot was made by Prime Minister Imran Khan during a Parliament session on Thursday and no parliamentarian raised any objections.“So this is a policy matter and we must respect Parliament,” the judge says.

5 p.m. 

Abhinandan undergoes medical check-up at WagahWing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is undergoing a medical check-up at Wagah ahead of his handing over to Indian authorities, reports Dawn. Associated Press says Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was taken in a convoy that set out from Lahore to Wagah earlier in the day, escorted by military vehicles with soldiers, their weapons drawn.

4.15 p.m. 

Pakistan daily Dawn says Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has reached Lahore, and is expected to be released shortly at the Wagah border. PTI says he has Lahore in a convoy comprising vehicles of government officials, who will hand over him to the Indian officials at the Attari-Wagah Border crossing.

3.30 p.m. 

Foreign Secretary briefs Parliamentary Standing Committee on External AffairsForeign Secretary Vijay Gokhale briefs the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs on the prevailing situation. The committee, headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, meets in Parliament in the afternoon.“The parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs will receive a briefing from the MEA on the current situation with Pakistan…”, tweets Mr. Tharoor.


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