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Thursday Oct 29 2020

DG ISPR press conference: Controversy over Abhinandan's release 'highly regrettable'

Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar addressing a press conference in Rawalpindi on October 29, 2020. — NNI

Director-General of Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar on Thursday said viewing the decision to release Indian air force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as anything other than "the mature response of a responsible state" is "highly regrettable".

His remarks came during a press conference in Rawalpindi's General Headquarters, held to set the record straight about the events surrounding February 27 — the day Pakistan Air Force downed two Indian planes and captured an Indian pilot — and Pakistan's subsequent decision to release him as a humanitarian gesture.

"Yesterday, a statement was made in which an attempt was made to twist the facts [regarding Abhinandan's release]," he began by saying.

The DG ISPR was referring to statements by PML-N leaders during a session of the National Assembly a day earlier, where they had accused the government of releasing Abhinandan under pressure. 

Today, in a video statement, Sadiq also cast aspersions on what he termed a "delay" before the meeting between the country's senior leadership on the day of Abhinandan's capture.

Sadiq did not only question the delay, but in a pointed attack directed at Prime Minister Imran Khan, asked if the decision to release Abhinandan was made "on dictation" from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the backdrop of these events, Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said his briefing today will be on a "single-point agenda" — to set the record straight on the entire episode.

The Feb 27 episode

Maj Gen Iftikhar said that after the Pulwama incident, on February 26, India violated all international principles to attack Pakistan. 

"They not only faced defeat, but humiliation all over the world," he stated.

"Our timely response derailed their efforts. Their planes and the explosives they had come to rain down on the Pakistani people were instead dropped on empty mountains. They left in a panicked state after being confronted by our planes."

He said that, in response, on February 27, the Pakistan Army sought to "teach the enemy a lesson".

"On this decision, the entire civil and military leadership was on a single page. We responded with full might in the light of day and shot down two planes, along with arresting their pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan [Varthaman]," the DG ISPR said, recalling the events.

He said that the enemy was in such a panicked state that it shot down its own helicopter.

Maj Gen Iftikhar said that Pakistan secured a "clear victory" that day against India. He said not only was India's hollow preparedness exposed that day, the entire Pakistani nation's heads were held high.

He said this triumph was not only celebrated in Pakistan, it was recognised by the entire world. 

"India [publicly] held the non-availability of Rafale jets accountable for its defeat," he added.

'Decision made from position of strength'

The DG ISPR said that the Government of Pakistan, in a measured and responsible move, decided to "give peace a chance" and hand over captured war prisoner Wing Commander Abhinandan.

He recalled that the move, which was in accordance with the Geneva Convention, was lauded the world over.

"I wish to set the history straight once more. Pakistan first demonstrated it capability and resolve. The decision was then made keeping all war options in mind and 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.

"We gave them a bloody nose and it's still hurting," the DG ISPR said.

He said that linking the "mature response of a responsible state" with regard to Wing Commander Abhinandan's release to any thing else is "highly regrettable and misleading".

"This is actually tantamount to making Pakistan having the upper hand on India and securing victory against it, controversial," he said.

Maj Gen Iftikhar said he thinks this would be unacceptable to any Pakistani.

'We must proceed with caution'

"For such a negative statement to be aired live has effects on national security," he continued, "The enemy is taking great advantage of this and this is reflected in Indian media."

He said the enemy has already waged a hybrid war on Pakistan "and we all must proceed with caution and great responsibility".

The DG ISPR said Pakistan's armed forces are fully aware of the situation when it comes to the region's security and are prepared to meet all internal and external challenges.

"With the nation's help, we will defeat any conspiracy against Pakistan and any show of force will be met with a robust response," he vowed.

No rift between armed forces leadership, soldiers

At the end of the briefing, as the major general sought to leave the podium, he was prompted by a journalist to "give his take" on "recent statements which could create a rift between the armed forces' leadership and soldiers".

To this, he responded by saying: "The armed forces are an organised institution. No divide can be created between the armed forces' leadership and its rank and file."

"No difference can be created between them. There is unity and this unity shall always remain," he added.