Recalling the events from February 2019, the Pakistani opposition claimed that the Imran Khan government had released Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman “out of fear” of an Indian attack. Varthaman was taken into Pakistani custody after he landed on the other side of the border following an aerial dogfight between Indian and Pakistani pilots.
Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) leader Ayaz Sadiq on Wednesday said that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had in an emergency meeting pointed out that “if Islamabad did not release Abhinandan Varthaman, India would attack Pakistan that night by 9 pm”, reported Pakistani media website Dunya News.
“I remember Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in the meeting in which Imran Khan had refused to attend and Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa came into the room, his legs were shaking and he was perspiring. Foreign Minister said for God’s sake let Abhinandan go, India’s about to attack Pakistan at 9 PM," said Sadiq.
Varthaman was released by Pakistan after Prime Minister Imran Khan made the dramatic announcement in the National Assembly as a sign of “goodwill gesture”.
The PML-N leader told opposition leaders that it was Qureshi who had "pleaded" for Abhinandan's release during the parliamentary meeting, which was attended by leaders from PPP, PML-N and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The report further quoted Sadiq as saying that the opposition has so far supported the Khan-led PTI government in all issues, including Abhinandan, but won't any more.
The IAF pilot was captured by Pakistani authorities on February 27 after his MiG 21 Bison went down during a dogfight with Pakistani jets. But before his plane was hit, he shot down an F-16 of Pakistan air force.
Soon after his release, Varthaman, who was brought to Delhi through the Attari-Wagah border, had apprised then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman that he had gone through "a lot of mental harassment" in the neighbouring country. He had briefed Sitharaman and Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa about the mental trauma.