Islamabad  -   Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated Pakistan’s desire for peace and announced freeing the captured Indian pilot as a good will gesture for paving way to dialogue with the neighbouring country.

The announcement came day after Pakistan Air Force shot down two Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets for violating the Pakistani airspace and arrested Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

Earlier on Tuesday, Indian planes dropped bombs near Balakot town of Pakistan, escalating the tension between two nuclear countries to a level where open war seemed imminent.

Before the opposition leader took the floor, Prime Minister Imran Khan apologised for cutting in, saying he wished to announce that the Indian pilot arrested by Pakistan will be released on Friday as a peace gesture.

“In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody,” PM Khan said giving a policy statement on the first day of joint sitting of parliament on Thursday.

The joint session has been convened to debate Indian aggression and threats against Pakistan. A joint resolution will be passed by the parliament today.

Expressing his wish for peace in the region, he said that he also tried to contact the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The prime minister urged the international community to play its due role in defusing the crisis between Pakistan and India as the conflict between the nuclear armed neighbours could lead to devastating consequences.

At the same time, Khan warned that any escalation on part of India will force Pakistan to retaliate in self-defence.

“Our desire for de-escalation should not be misconstrued as weakness... As a dignified nation, we will fight till our last breath if forced to choose between freedom and slavery,” he said.

Minutes after Khan announced IAF pilot’s release and repatriation to India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a

strikingly unwelcoming remark while addressing an award ceremony at Vigyan Bhavan, a premier convention centre of Government of India in New Delhi.

“Aap toh laboratory mein zindagi gujarne wale log hain. Aur aap mein pilot project karne ki parampara hoti hain. Aur pilot project hone ke baad scaleable kiya jata hai. Toh abhi abhi ek pilot project ho gaya hai. Abhi real karna hai... Pehle toh practice thi (You spend your lives in a laboratory. And there is a tradition of carrying out pilot project... A pilot project is made scaleable after completion. So one pilot project has been completed. The earlier one [airstrikes in Pakistan] was just practice),” Modi said.

Expressing his unflinching resolve to defend the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan in his address to Parliament also referred to Tipu Sultan, a symbol of bravery and resistance to aggression.

The brave ruler of Maysore, who died fighting with the British, used to say: “A lion’s life for a day is better than that of hundred years of a jackal.”

“We have heard of two kings – Bahadur Shah Zaffar and Tipu Sultan. Bahadur Shah Zaffar had a choice between surrender and death, he chose surrender. Tipu Sultan chose death over surrender. Our hero is Tipu Sultan, said Khan.

Bahadur Shah Zaffar was the last Moghul king, who was arrested by the British invaders and he spent rest of his life in captivity.

Prime Minister Khan in his speech pointed out that Pakistan’s armed forces are “battle hardened and fully prepared to respond to any aggression”.

He said the entire Pakistani nation was united in the face of external threat. And, he commended all the political parties for showing unity at this critical juncture.

Stressing the importance of dialogue, Imran Khan said world’s most power country, the United States was also holding dialogue with Afghan Taliban and Pakistan is facilitating these talks. He said India should also come to the dialogue table and resolve issues through talks and in a peaceful manner.

Alluding to the peace overtures made by his government to India, the prime minister said that he had offered that Pakistan will take two steps if India takes one towards peace, but the other side did not reciprocate in a positive manner.

He said he had also offered opening of Kartarpur Corridor with the aim to lower the tension and head towards improvement in relations. Khan said the message emanating from the other side on this initiative, following the Pulwama incident was not encouraging.

 

 

 

Needs for retrospection on Kashmir

The premier said India needed retrospection as “all of this issue is because of Kashmir”.

Khan said an indigenous movement is going on in Kashmir and India was committing oppression to subdue Kashmiris’ struggle. He said the entire Kashmir had turned against India due to its oppressive tactics.

“I believe that there should be a debate within India to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and to end war mongering against Pakistan,” he said.

“I want to ask the Indian public about all that has happened over the past 4 years. There is an indigenous movement in Kashmir. At one point, Kashmiri leaders had not wanted separation, but because of Indian brutality, today all they demand is independence.”

“Shouldn’t they ask why a 19-year-old agreed to become a human bomb?”

“Einstien’s theory of madness is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’ How long will Pakistan be blamed for everything in Kashmir? And asked to take action without any proof?”

The prime minister said it was unfortunate that Indian media was also adding fuel to the fire by creating war hysteria. He appreciated Pakistani media for playing a responsible role in the current situation.

He once again stated that Pakistan had nothing to gain from Pulwama incident, especially when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was paying an official visit to the country, during which several investment agreements had to be signed.

Premier Khan recalled that Pakistan prepared a consensus National Action Plan to eliminate terrorism in which commitments have been made that armed militias will not be allowed any space in the country.

He pointed out that Pakistan also offered investigation into the incident if provided with actionable intelligence.

Instead of giving evidence, the Indian side resorted to war mongering and created war hysteria. He said “today we received a dossier from India, which should have been shared just after the Pulwama incident.”

The PM said Pakistan understood that India was pursuing the path of tension out of political compulsions.

Referring to the response of Pakistan following Indian airspace violation, Khan said it was only aimed at showing Pakistan’s capability and will to defend the motherland.

“We did not hit any target and our actions avoided collateral damage and civilian causalities.” Pakistan shot down two Indian jets “when they tried to intercept our planes”, he added.

 

 

Shehbaz’s address

Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif termed the current scenario as significant in Pakistan’s history. He said they have to work with collective insight and wisdom, and regretted that Kashmir had been turned into a blood pool.

“[For the first time] after 1971, Pakistan’s borders have been violated [in such a manner], which is a heinous crime,” he said.

The opposition leader said the Indian planes violated country’s airspace but Pakistan Air Force retaliated effectively, refreshing the memories of 1965 war.

Terming him a ‘hero of the nation’, Sharif lauded Pakistani pilot Hassan Siddiqui, who shot down the Indian planes in a dogfight near LoC.

The lawmakers from both treasury and opposition lauded the pilot with desk-thumping.

Shehbaz said that wars were no solution to any problem. He said there was need to resolve Kashmir issue according to wish and aspirations of the people of Kashmir in line with the resolutions of United Nations.

He made it clear that opposition would support the government against India by setting aside all the differences. “There is one voice, [we are a] united parliament and [a] united Pakistan,” he said.

About giving Sushma Swaaraj the status of ‘Guest of honor’ in OIC, the PML-N president said government should avoid attending the particular OIC session.

Views of other MPs

PPPP’s Raja Pervaiz Mushraf, taking part in debate, lauded the Pakistan Air Force for its timely action. However, he said that there was no need to boycott the OIC session. “We should rather send our delegation [to raise our voice],” he said.

MMM lawmaker Asad Mehmood also lauded the Pakistan forces. “We pay tribute to our armed forces,” he said, adding that there was a need to show unity.

AML President Sheikh Rashid said that Pakistan is a peace loving country but would give befitting response in case of any attack.

ANP’s Ameer Haider Hoti supported the step of releasing the arrested Indian pilot. Other lawmakers said that entire nation is united in the current situation.

 

“We have heard of two kings – Bahadur Shah Zaffar and Tipu Sultan... Tipu chose death over surrender; he’s our hero (whose example we’ll follow) ,”

says PM Khan

A pilot project is made scaleable after completion. So one pilot project has been completed. The earlier one (airstrikes in Pakistan) was just practice,”

says Modi.