No compulsion or pressure to release Abhinandan, did it for peace: Qureshi

Published March 2, 2019
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says Pakistan does not want regional peace to be ruined for the sake of politics. — BBC News screengrab
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says Pakistan does not want regional peace to be ruined for the sake of politics. — BBC News screengrab

The decision to release Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan was not taken under pressure, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told BBC Urdu on Friday.

"There was neither compulsion nor pressure to release the Indian pilot," the foreign minister said in the interview.

"We wanted to give them [New Delhi] the message that we don't want to mistreat your citizens, we don't want your suffering to increase. We want peace."

Abhinandan had been captured on Wednesday after his plane was shot down by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) after it violated Pakistani airspace. A day later, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that the pilot would be released as a "gesture of peace" to India.

In his interview to BBC Urdu, Qureshi said that Pakistan does not want regional peace to be ruined for the sake of (Indian) politics.

He declared that Pakistan would not allow any militant outfit to operate on the country's soil, and "if any group does that, the government plans to take action against it".

"We cannot allow non-state elements to bring our country and the region to the brink [of war]," he said.

'There is still confusion' over JeM's involvement in Pulwama

In a separate interview to BBC News, the foreign minister, in response to a question pertaining to the Pulwama incident, said that there was "still confusion" over whether the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group had claimed responsibility for the attack or not.

"The confusion is [that] the leadership (of JeM) when contacted, said no," he said. "They have denied that, that's the confusion."

When asked who contacted the group's leadership, Qureshi said the "people who are known to them (the JeM)".

Last month, a suicide bomber had attacked an Indian military convoy in Indian-occupied Kashmir's Pulwama district, which resulted in the death of more than 40 Indian paramilitaries.

The Indian media reported that JeM — which is a proscribed entity in Pakistan — had claimed responsibility for the attack.

In his interview to BBC News, Qureshi repeated Prime Minister Khan's offer for dialogue and said that Pakistan was prepared to investigate Indian allegations if provided with actionable evidence.

"We have courts in this country and the courts are independent," the foreign minister said. "When you take action against an individual, no matter who he is, you'll have to prove your point in a court of law. What we are saying to the Indians [is this]: if you have something, please share [it] with us and if you do, then we can articulate a case in court."

The Pakistani government, earlier this week, received a dossier on the Pulwama attack from the Indian government. Confirming that the government had received a dossier, the Foreign Office spokesperson had said that Pakistan will act on the prime minister's directions if actionable evidence had been provided.

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