Pak to Fully Re-open Commercial Airspace From Monday | Four Pakistani airports will begin partial operations on Friday with a full resumption of commercial flights on Monday, following their suspension after military tensions with India erupted earlier this week. A spokeswoman said Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta airports would begin some flights on Friday with the remainder opening next week. "These four airports will resume flight operations partially today," she said. The closure of Pakistan's airspace has disrupted not just the country's own air transport but also flights worldwide as airlines were forced to cancel or reroute flights to other destinations that pass over Pakistan.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan had this evening announced that IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be released on Friday. Khan made the announcement during an address to Pakistani parliament, saying it was the first step to open negotiations. Khan’s announcement comes hours after US President Donald Trump said in Vietnam that there would “reasonably good news” coming from India and Pakistan. "They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop," Trump had said. "We have been in the middle trying to help them both out."
CLICK TO READ | 'Dead' Militant Gets up After Encounter to Kill 4 Jawans in J&K's Handwara, Civilian Killed in Clashes
The encounter broke late last night after the joint team of the Army's 22 RR, 92 Battalion CRPF and SOG launched a cordon-and-search operation at Khanan Babagund in Langate.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan briefed Jordan's King Abdullah II about his initiatives to maintain peace between Pakistan and India for the sake of the people of the two countries and the region, the Pakistan Prime Minister's Office said in a statement. The king conveyed his concern over the escalating situation between Pakistan and India." Khan said that the "core issue between the two countries remained the issue of Kashmir" that needs to be resolved as per the UN Resolutions. "Khan said that his government's agenda was to promote peace and prosperity for the people of Pakistan through poverty alleviation and social welfare programmes. However, the war hysteria unleashed in India was threatening peace of the region," the statement said.
Northern Army Commander Visits Border Areas in J&K | Amid tensions along the Line of Control, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Ranbir Singh on Friday visited forward posts in Akhnoor sector of Jammu district to review the operational preparedness and the prevailing security situation, an official spokesperson said. Lt Gen Singh was accompanied by the White Knight Corps Commander Lt Gen Paramjit Singh. The Army commander was briefed on the actions taken to meet the challenges of increased ceasefire violations, the official said. Lt Gen Singh appreciated the measures and standard operating procedures instituted by the units and formations in their areas of responsibility to minimise the casualties due to the ceasefire violations and the infiltration bids.
CLICK TO READ | Like Mother, Like Son: A Bad Attitude and a Bold Mother Helped Make IAF Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman
A woman toughened by serving in war-ravaged countries, Dr Shobha has also been an activist for healthcare and education. More recently, she launched an online campaign to increase punishment for child sexual abuse convicts two years ago.
Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority has released a notification confirming that flight operations shall be resuming on March 1 at 6pm local time and has requested the maximum possible presence of its staff members. "It is expected that the backlog of the passengers would be at the airport. To smoothly manage the operations, the management would require the presence of the staff and officers," read the circular.
Pakistan’s Major General Asif Ghafoor on Friday tweeted that the country's Chief of the Army Staff has discussed the ongoing standoff between India and Pakistan with United States Central Command and Chief of the Defence Staff and ambassadors of Australia, UK, and China.
COAS had tel comm with Comd USCENTCOM, CDS UK, CDF Australia and Ambs of US, UK & China in Pak. Prevailing stand off between Pakistan & India & its impact on peace & stability in the region & beyond discussed. “Pak shall surely respond to any aggression in self defence”, COAS.— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) March 1, 2019
Sources suggest Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman might also appear in front of the media later on Friday. He was returned to India at around 5:20pm.
#WelcomeHomeAbhinandan – Wing Commander Abhinandan ‘may’ step out for the media and a statement likely to be issued by AVM RGK Kapoor: Sources. | @shreyadhoundial with more insights.— News18 (@CNNnews18) March 1, 2019
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Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, Army Commander, Northern Command, along with White Knight Corps Commander Lt Gen Paramjit Singh, has visited forward posts in Jammu and Kashmir's Akhnoor Sector to review the operational preparedness of the armed forces and the prevalent security situation, reported news agency ANI.
CLICK TO READ | Pakistan to Lodge UN Complaint Against India for 'Eco-Terrorism' Forest Bombing
Pakistan's Climate Change Minister Malik Amin Aslam said Indian jets bombed a 'forest reserve' and the government was undertaking an environmental impact assessment, which will be the basis of a complaint at the United Nations and other forums.
Standing Ovation for Pilot's Parents | On Thursday night, the parents of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman were given a standing ovation when they de-boarded an IndiGo Chennai-New Delhi flight. According to people in the knowledge of the incident, although the parents wished to travel without any fanfare, fellow passengers discovered their identity and voluntarily gave them the first right of de-boarding, IANS reported.
'Explain to World Reasons Behind Air Strike Inside Pak' | A parliamentary panel on Friday asked the government to go all out to explain to the international community reasons behind India's decision to carry out air strike on Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camp inside Pakistan. The suggestion came when Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale briefed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs about the latest developments that have taken place between India and Pakistan after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack by JeM in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. Gokhale told the panel that the attempt by Pakistan Air Force to target military installations in India was unsuccessful as it was thwarted by the IAF which lost a jet in the fight back. The members told the foreign secretary that the government should vigorously publicise across the world the reasons behind New Delhi's move to target the terror camps, a member later said. Congress president Rahul Gandhi is a member of the committee but was not present in the meeting on Friday.
Never Recognised Pak, India as Nuclear States: China | China on Friday said it has never recognised India and Pakistan as nuclear powers and ruled out extending such a status to North Korea following the unsuccessful second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam. “China has never recognised India and Pakistan as nuclear countries. Our position on this has never changed," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing here.
Pakistan Calls India's Counter-Terrorism Operation 'Aggression' | Pakistan Parliament's joint session on Friday passed an unanimous resolution strongly condemning as "aggression" India's counter-terrorism operation in the country. The resolution was moved by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who earlier announced that he was to skipping meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation over the invitation to Sushma Swaraj.
Two days after he was captured by Pakistani authorities, Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman left for the Wagah Border from Lahore in a convoy comprising vehicles of the Pakistani government officials. The Pakistani officials will hand over him to the Indian officials at the Attari-Wagah Border crossing.
IAF pilot Abhinandan is still on the Pakistani side and will crossover to the Indian side anytime now. A heavily-guarded convoy has arrived on the Pakistani side of the border.
CLICK TO READ | Happy With the Release of IAF Pilot, But Pakistan Needs to Do Lot More: Union Minister V K Singh
The Minister of State for External Affairs also said that the Centre is taking appropriate measures and such steps are not revealed.
Procedures Abhinandan Will Have to Undergo | Wing Commander Abhinandan will be directly taken to Indian Air Force Intelligence Unit as soon as he arrives. He will be made to take several medical tests to gauge his fitness levels. Scans will also be conducted to check if he has been bugged by the Pakistani army. The pilot will need to undergo psychological tests too. Since he has been captured by the enemy and lived through traumatic situations, defence establishment will explore possibilities of him being tortured to illicit national security secrets from him.
Opposition Parties 'Going Against India' | Modi also accused the opposition parties of “going against India” and not supporting the country in its fight against terror. “Sadly, a few political parties guided by Modi hatred have gone against India...the world is supporting India's fight against terror but these political parties are against it,” Modi said, adding, “The statement of these people are supporting Pakistan...the statements of these parties are being quoted in their media and parliament ..I want to ask them, do they support our armed forces or do they believe those forces who support terror on our soil?
The Indian Army, Air Force and Navy, meanwhile, will address a joint press conference at 7pm. The Ministry of External Affairs will also join them.
Khan’s surprise announcement during a joint session of Parliament came barely an hour after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister Khan is ready to talk to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to de-escalate Indo-Pak tensions.
As opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif took the floor of the House, Prime Minister Khan apologised for interrupting him and said he wishes to announce that the Indian pilot captured by Pakistan Air Force on Wednesday will be released Friday as a peace gesture.
"In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow (Friday), and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody," Khan said.
The announcement was greeted by thumping of desks by Pakistani lawmakers.
India on Thursday made it clear that IAF pilot Abhinandan cannot be a bargaining chip and New Delhi will not strike any deal with Islamabad for his release.
The joint session of Parliament was held on Thursday to discuss rising tension with India. The Pakistani Air Force on Wednesday carried out a retaliatory strike, a day after Indian struck inside Pakistan, destroying the biggest terrorist training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
Addressing the House, Khan said, "The only purpose of our strike was to demonstrate our capability and will." "We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner."
He warned if India moved ahead with the "aggression", Pakistan will be forced to retaliate and urged the Indian leadership not to push for escalation as war is not solution to any problem.
Warning that "any miscalculation" from India would result in "disaster", he said, Countries are ruined because of miscalculation. War is not a solution. If India takes any action, we will have to retaliate."
Khan, however, said that Pakistan's "desire for de-escalation" should not be misconstrued as its weakness.
"Our armed forces are battle-hardened and they are fully prepared to respond to any aggression, he said.
He said "Pakistan is a peace loving country" and desires peace and stability in the region.
Prime Minister Khan said he "tried to call" the Indian Prime Minister on the phone Wednesday because "escalation is not in our interests nor in India's".
The prime minister urged the international community to play its role in de-escalation for peace and stability in the region.
Pakistan detained the IAF pilot following a fierce engagement between air forces of the two sides along the Line of Control when his MiG 21 fighter jet was downed.
Pakistan's Foreign Office (FO) said that the Indian Air Force pilot was safe and sound.
"The armed forces rescued him from the mob that went after him after his plane crashed in Kashmir," the FO said.
India Wednesday summoned the acting high commissioner of Pakistan and demanded immediate and safe return of the IAF pilot who was detained by Pakistan following an aerial engagement by air forces of the two countries.
It has also been made clear to Pakistan that no harm should be caused to the Indian defence personnel, the External Affairs Ministry said in New Delhi, adding that it has conveyed strong objection to the neighbouring country at the "vulgar display" of an injured personnel in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention.
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