As a ‘peace gesture’, Imran Khan announces release of captured IAF pilot Abhinandan tomorrow

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced the release of captured IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. The surprise announcement comes barely hours after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister Khan is ready to talk to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to de-escalate Indo-Pak tensions.

“We have decided to release the captured Indian pilot tomorrow as a peace gesture,” Imran Khan announced this in Pakistan Parliament. Addressing the joint session of Parliament, Imran Khan, however said our de-escalation efforts should not be seen a weak gesture.

He urged India not to escalate the situation. “Don’t take this any further, Pakistan will be forced to retaliate,” he added.

“I hope the international community will play its part to ensure the situation does not escalate beyond this,” Pakistan prime minister said.

He also said that he tried to reach out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday.

Leader of the Opposition in the Pakistan Assembly Shehbaz Sharif  also addressed the session.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan tabled the motion to discuss the prevailing prevailing situation between Pakistan and India as the session began.

Earlier, PM Imran chaired a meeting of the federal cabinet and said  Pakistan is ready for talks with India on all issues including terrorism. The premier said, “Dialogue is the only way for peace and stability in the region.”

“I had made an offer to India to investigate the Pulwama attack and hold dialogue on bilateral issues,” media reports quoted sources as saying. “Pakistan is ready for talks with India on all issues including terrorism,” he added as per reports.

This has come when US president earlier in the day had hinted that hostilities between India and Pakistan could end soon. He said he has some “reasonably decent” news with the US involved in trying to help reduce tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Trump said the US has some “reasonably attractive news” from Pakistan and India in his opening statement at a press conference at the end of his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the Vietnamese capital.

“We have been involved in trying to help them (India and Pakistan) stop and we have some reasonably decent news,” he told the reporters.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is ready to talk to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi over the telephone to offer him peace.

Qureshi told Geo News that if India gives priority to peace, Pakistan is ready for peace.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan is ready to talk to Narendra Modi on the telephone and ready to extend an invitation of peace. Is Modi ready?” he asked.

“We are ready for every eventuality. If they give priority to peace, we are ready for peace. If they prioritise dialogue, we are ready for dialogue,” the Foreign Minister said.

Qureshi also confirmed the receipt of India’s dossier on the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 in which 40 CRPF soldiers were killed in an attack claimed by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

“Let’s talk together on the basis of the dossier. I am ready to talk. You want to talk about terrorism, I am ready. You want to talk about peace, I am ready. You want to make it a common challenge, I am ready,” he said.