Terming it a "gesture of peace", Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday that captured Indian Air force pilot will be released on Friday. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will walk back home across the Wagah border. The announcement came after a joint session of the National Assembly, and a day after Khan extended an olive branch to India.
Khan's crucial announcement came almost as an afterthought, at the tail end of his speech. He sat down, only to get up again to announce, "I forgot to inform that in our desire for peace and as the first step to open negotiations, we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow."
"I tried to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as I want to de-escalate prevailing tension between the two countries," Khan said earlier in his speech. "War would not favour India or Pakistan, given the kind of weapons the two countries have."
Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured by the Pakistan Army on Wednesday after his MiG-21 Bison fell on the Pakistan side following a dogfight with Pakistan fighter jets.
As per reports published in Pakistan media, he shot in the air twice as locals tried to capture him. Videos of him being thrashed by locals and being marched blindfolded, with a bloodied face, by the army were leaked on social media before being taken down in keeping with the Geneva Conventions. Pakistan army later released short videos of his interrogation, one showing him blindfolded; in another, he was asked about his residence in India and his family.
On Wednesday, Khan had defended Pakistan Air Force's invasion of Indian air space. He had cautioned India, saying, "With the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation? If this escalates, it will no longer be in my control or in Narendra Modi's. Let's sit together and settle this with talks."