India wants to become an OIC observer and then gradually force its way in: FM Qureshi
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says that India wants to use the OIC platform to further its own agenda which it will do by way of first becoming an observer and then gradually forcing its way in [to exert more influence on member nations].
Speaking on a DawnNewsTV talk show, Qureshi said New Delhi's stance has been that based on a sizable Muslim population in India it should be given membership.
"They tried [to get membership] in 1993, 1984, 2004 which Pakistan has always been blocking and today too no mention was made regarding the observer status. Pakistan remained successful in that regard," he added.
'Narendra Modi v Imran Khan: Who won the war of perception?'
"Mr Modi appeared to lose control of the narrative. 'Any which way you spin it, Pakistan's attack took India by surprise,' says Srinath Raghavan, historian and author, most recently of Fierce Enigmas: A History of the United States in South Asia.
Consider this. India struck Pakistan in the middle of the night in what was a retaliatory action for the attack in Pulwama on 14 February in which more than 40 Indian troops were killed. Pakistan's response was swift and audacious, striking India in broad daylight the next day.
The capture of the pilot meant that the narrative and expectations of Mr Modi and his government were thrown off kilter and the upbeat narrative of the morning before had now completely changed to bringing the pilot home. The Indian military briefing came more than 30 hours after the Pakistani attack. Mr Modi and his government had clearly little headroom to control the narrative."
Read the full piece by BBC's India correspondent Soutik Biswas here.
Shuttle diplomacy could be the answer to de-escalate India-Pak tensions: expert
What can world powers do to help de-escalate tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan? The answer could lie in shuttle diplomacy, according to Moeed Yusuf of the US Institute of Peace.
Yusuf noted that in the past when New Delhi and Islamabad entered a major crisis, it was the United States that led a group of countries, including China, Britain and Russia, to mediate between the two South Asian countries.
"There were senior US officials, senior officials from Britain, there was a tag team that showed up in India and Pakistan and physically made these countries realise that this needs to stop. We haven’t seen that yet and I think it needs to begin immediately," he added.
FM Qureshi speaks to Russian counterpart, welcomes offer of mediation between India and Pakistan
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov over the telephone today to discuss the regional situation, a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
"Foreign Minister Lavrov reiterated Russia’s offer of mediation and provision of [a] venue for the talks between India and Pakistan," said the foreign ministry statement.
"The Foreign Minister welcomed the Russian offer and added that he had acknowledged Russia’s constructive role from the floor of the Joint Session of Parliament earlier in the day, which was well-received," it added.
Handover of Indian pilot took several hours due to a roster of procedures: AP
The handover of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman took several hours as a roster of procedures were completed including a medical checkup to verify his health and condition before being handed over to his countrymen, the Associated Press reports.
The pilot was accompanied to the Wagah-Attari border by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
AJK teenager dead, 3 injured as Indian troops continue shelling across LoC
There has been no let up in “ruthless shelling” by Indian troops from across the Line of Control (LoC) as a teenager was killed and three other civilians injured in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Friday, officials say.
All casualties occurred in Kotli district where the LoC was calm since the morning but became “hot” in the afternoon after Indian troops resorted to heavy mortar and artillery shelling, according to officials.
No explanation sought for delay in pilot's handover and none given: Indian official
Asked whether Pakistan had provided any "explanation" for the alleged delay in the handing over of captured Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan, the deputy commissioner of Amritsar told Indian media outlets: "No explanation was sought and none was given."
In a brief statement, the Indian authorities said, "IAF wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman has just been handed over to us as per the standard operating procedures. We will now take him for a detailed medical checkup. This is mandatory because he had ejected and must have caused great stress to his body."
'Indian pilot treated with dignity and in line with international law': Foreign Office
The Foreign Office confirmed the return of Indian POW, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, in a statement released shortly after the pilot was handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border.
"The captured Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been returned to India today," said the statement.
"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," the Foreign Office stated in the press release.
"While in captivity, he was treated with dignity and in line with international law," the statement added.
"Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan announced his return as a goodwill gesture aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India," it concluded.
A new videotaped statement of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been broadcast on national television, which shows him in his uniform.
The statement recounts his ingress into Pakistani airspace in search of a target, being shot down, being accosted by an angry mob and subsequent rescue by Pakistan Army officials, and his experience in Pakistani custody.
"My name is Wing Commander Abhinandan," he states for the record.
"I am a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force. I was in search of the target when your [Pakistan] Air Force shot me down. I had to eject the plane which had sustained damage. As soon as I ejected and when my parachute opened and when I fell down, I had a pistol with me."
"There were many people. I had only one way to save myself: I dropped my pistol and tried to run," he is heard saying in the video.
"People chased me, their emotions were running high. Just then, two Pakistani Army officials came and saved me. Pakistani army captains saved from the people and did not let any harm come to me. They took me to their unit where I was administered first aid and then I was taken to the hospital where I further underwent a medical exam and received more aid," he says.
"The Pakistan Army is a very professional service. I see peace in it. I have spent time with the Pakistan Army [and] I am very impressed."
"Indian media always stretches the truth," he regrets. "The smallest of things are presented in a very incendiary manner and people get misled."
The Hindu ─ which earlier quoted IANS saying that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had been returned to India ─ is now quoting diplomatic sources saying that he will be handed over at 9pm (India time).
Update: Conflicting reports over IAF pilot's return to India
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has yet to be handed over to India, it appears. Although most Indian news outlets had reported that he was handed to Indian authorities over an hour ago, they are now reporting that there is some confusion over whether or not he has crossed onto Indian soil or not.
IANS has reported he was handed over to Indian authorities and was accompanied by Indian High Commission officials from Islamabad.
According to News18, he returned to India around 5pm and may appear in front of the media.
India Today reported that he is expected to cross over around 7:30pm local time.
A press conference is expected once the process is complete.
Jordan's King Abdullah II offers mediation to help de-escalate crisis
King Abdullah II of Jordan made a telephone call to Prime Minister Imran Khan today and "conveyed his concern over the escalating situation between Pakistan and India", according to a Twitter post by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
The Jordanian king praised the premier's statesman-like approach in tackling the situation and "offered Jordan's mediation to help de-escalate the crisis", PTI said.
Gen Bajwa in contact with US, UK, Australian military chiefs, diplomats on India stand-off: ISPR
Inter-Services Public Relations on Friday evening issued a statement saying that Chief of Armed Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had a "telephonic communication" with the US, UK and Australian militaries, as well as the ambassadors of the US, UK and China over the stand-off with India.
"COAS had tel comm [telephonic communication with Comd USCENTCOM [Commander of the US Central Command], CDS UK [the Chief of Defense Staff of the UK], CDF Australia [Australia's Chief of the Defense Force] and the ambassadors of US, UK and China in Pakistan," read a tweet from Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the military's spokesperson.
"Prevailing stand-off between Pakistan and and its impact on peace and stability in the region and beyond discussed," it added.
“Pakistan shall surely respond to any aggression in self defence," the COAS was quoted as saying.
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 to lodge UN complaint against India for 'eco-terrorism' forest bombing
Pakistan plans to lodge a complaint against India at the United Nations, accusing it of "eco-terrorism" over air strikes that damaged pine trees and brought the nuclear-armed nations to blows, a government minister said on Friday according to a Reuters report.
Indian warplanes on Tuesday violated the Line of Control (LoC) and released a payload near the northern town of Balakot. While New Delhi initially claimed it killed hundreds of "terrorists", it failed to provide any evidence.
Pakistan denied there were any such camps in the area and locals said only one elderly villager was hurt.
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 a complaint at the United Nations and other forums.
"What happened over there is environmental terrorism," Aslam told Reuters, adding that dozens of pine trees had been felled. "There has been serious environmental damage."
Two Reuters reporters who visited the site of the bombings, where four large craters could be seen, said up to 15 pine trees had been brought down by the blasts. Villagers dismissed Indian claims that hundreds of militants were killed.
READ: What happens after Wing Commander Abhinandan reaches India?
According to Firstpost, once the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot reaches India, he will be sent in for a medical examination. A committee of the IAF will reconstruct the events of the crash to learn what was fired, the frequency and intensity of the firing. This is the way the forces will gauge Pakistan’s preparedness, said Firstpost.
"Then, the pilot will be debriefed by multiple agencies – namely the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). He will be made to reconstruct the event."
Senior team of Indian Air Force to receive Wing Commander Abhinandan
Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon, the deputy commissioner of Amritsar, has said a senior team of the Indian Air Force will receive Wing Commander Abhinandan. He added that the 'Beating the Retreat' ceremony at Wagah border will not take place today.
According to News 18, civilians are being turned back from the Wagah border ahead of the pilot's release from Pakistan.
Indian police distribute food to Pakistani passengers stranded near Amritsar
Indian Punjab Police personnel distribute food to Pakistani passengers stranded outside Attari Railway station near Amritsar, following the temporary suspension of the Samjhauta Express rail service — also called the Friendship Express.
Bilawal Bhutto terms govt's decision not to attend OIC 'unfortunate'
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has termed the government's decision not to attend the OIC meeting as "unfortunate", saying: "Important international forums must be engaged at this critical time."
The government took the decision not to attend the 46th session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers after the parliament passed a resolution — signed by PPP among other parties — demanding that Pakistan abstain completely [from the meeting] as a protest against "India an egregious aggressor against Pakistan as well as Kashmiri people" being invited as a guest of honour.
India's Swaraj takes apparent swipe at Pakistan during OIC address
India's Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj took an apparent swipe at Pakistan during her address at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Without naming Pakistan, the Indian minister put forth the Indian allegations, saying: "If we want to save humanity then we must tell the states who provide shelter and funding to the terrorists, to dismantle the infrastructure of that terrorist camps and stop providing funding and shelter to the terror organisations based in that country.
"At the same time, I would like to say that this menace cannot be fought only through military intelligence or diplomatic means. It is also a battle that must be won through the strength of our values and the real message of religions.
"This is a task that states, societies, sages, scholars, spiritual leaders and families must pursue through personal contacts and on social media. And for this, cultures must engage with cultures and communities must build bridges, not erect walls, the youth must shape the future not destroy lives."
READ: 'Where are bodies of militants India says it bombed?'
"On the wooded slopes above Jaba, villagers pointed to four bomb craters and some splintered pine trees, but could see little other impact from the series of explosions that blasted them awake at around 3am."
"It shook everything," said Abdur Rasheed, who drives a pickup van around the area. He said there weren’t any human casualties: "No one died. Only some pine trees died, they were cut down. A crow also died."
Mufti condemns India's crackdown, ban on JI in occupied Kashmir
Former chief minister of occupied Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti on Friday tweeted a condemnation of India's crackdown and subsequent ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami, warning that such steps choke space for dissent and lead us to violence.
Mufti said the crackdown, followed by the ban, is another example of the Indian government's high-handedness and "muscular approach" towards dealing with the Kashmir issue.
'#NobelPeacePrizeForImranKhan' trending in Pakistan on Twitter
As Pakistan prepared to free captured Indian pilot Abhinandan on Friday, the hashtag #NobelPeacePrizeForImranKhan was trending in the country on Twitter.
A day earlier, after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Pakistan would release Indian Air Force officer, Wing Commander Abhinandan, as a peace gesture, Twitterati from both sides of the eastern border heaped praise on the premier.
Qureshi to not attend OIC meet, to send other officials instead
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, during a joint session of the parliament, said that he will not attend the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit but instead send "lower level officials".
"I have decided that I will not attend the Council of Foreign Ministers. But we have 19 pending resolutions in the CFM and several of them concern the brutality against Kashmiris. So to ensure that Pakistan’s resolutions [and its stance] are represented, our lower level officials will be present. In case, India is offered observer status, [our delegation] will oppose it on Pakistan’s behalf." — Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi
Captured Indian pilot to be released at around 3pm: sources
Indian authorities have been formally informed of Pakistan's decision to release captured Indian Air Force officer, Wing Commander Abhinandan at around 3pm, sources within the Foreign Office have told DawnNewsTV.
Acting Indian High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia on Friday visited the FO to fulfill formalities ahead of the Indian pilot's repatriation.
Indian Air Attaché Group Captain J.T. Krain has left for Lahore with travel documents of the pilot. He will escort the pilot back to India, sources added.
We need to introspect, convince world that we don't condone terrorism: Khawaja Asif
PML-N's Khawaja Asif, during a joint session of the parliament, has said that "we need to introspect and convince the world we don't condone terrorism."
"Our stance is right but we need introspection. We need to convince the world that we do not condone terrorism. We have been fighting terrorism for the past 17 years and are the only ones that are successful. The [parties] that were our assets until yesterday have today become our liabilities and we have to eliminate them.
"I said this at the Munich security conference that these [terrorists] were created and dumped on us by you [western powers]." — PML-N's Khawaja Asif
Pakistani parliament stands united, India's remains divided: Asad Umar
Finance Minister Asad Umar, in a joint session of the parliament, has said that the entire Pakistani parliament stands united unlike its Indian counterpart.
"Military leadership’s job is to protect and defend the country. But political leadership’s responsibility is to ensure that such a situation does not emerge in the first place. I am proud that in the past 72 hours, Pakistani political leadership has displayed exemplary unity, whereas Indian politicians are divided. We do not see any divide among Pakistanis." — Asad Umar
India has been the aggressor in entire conflict: Sherry Rehman
Senator Sherry Rehman, in a joint session of the parliament, has called out India for being the aggressor in the ongoing armed conflict with Pakistan.
"India has been the aggressor in this entire episode. They started it. Twenty-one parties in India have said that Modi is instigating a war for his personal political gains. We must notice this and appreciate them [Indian parties]. They have seen that no F-16 was shot down. We did not violate their borders, they committed an act of war." — Sherry Rehman
Disengagement not the solution, soft diplomacy is: Zardari
PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari says that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi should attend the OIC meeting but adds that he would accept the parliament's wishes on the matter.
"I am a democratic man and if the house thinks that foreign minister should not attend then I can’t say anything. But disengagement is not a solution. The foreign minister should attend the OIC meeting. Pakistan should be represented there.
"Our population is emotional, we are emotional and we think with emotions. Wars are fought against nations. If it comes to that we are ready for war. But that should be the last resort. Soft diplomacy is the need of the hour.
"I stand by my position that the foreign minister should go to the OIC. If not the foreign minister then the foreign secretary should go but we must be represented. We must not be cut off. We are one of the founding members and for this OIC our armed forces have fought wars. Small countries have become big powers; we must acknowledge that, but we can’t change others. We can [only] change our way of thinking." — Asif Ali Zardari
Shahbaz urges UAE crown prince to retract OIC invitation for India
Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif has urged UAE's crown prince to withdraw the OIC invitation extended to India.
"UAE’s crown prince’s father was a friend of Pakistan and crown prince too is very fond of Pakistan. In the light of tensions with India, we appreciate his gesture but we request him [to retract the OIC invitation for Indian FM]." — Shahbaz Sharif