Pakistan to release captured Indian pilot in 'peace gesture'

Posted March 02, 2019

Pakistan will release a captured Indian pilot as a "peace gesture" on Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said.

People turned out in large numbers early Friday morning at the Wagah-Attari border crossing, about 300 miles from New Delhi, where Pakistan handed the pilot over to India. This news brought a wave relief to Indians as everyone wanted their nation's hero back.

In a video message on Wednesday, Imran Khan, Pakistan's prime minister, called for "dialogue" to ease tensions between the countries.

Pakistan - which denies any involvement in the 14 February attack - said it had no choice but to retaliate to the Indian raids with air strikes on Wednesday.

Speaking earlier on Thursday, Modi spoke in strong words against Pakistan, urging his nation to "stand like a wall" against an enemy he said "supports terror".

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Pakistan prepared to release a captured Indian pilot on Friday as the nuclear powers scaled back their confrontation, at least temporarily, while Indian opposition politicians raised doubts over whether an initial airstrike had destroyed a militant camp in Pakistan.

The agency said all domestic and global flights would be allowed to and from Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta. It said other airports, including the one located in the eastern city of Lahore that borders India, will remain closed until March 4.

In New Delhi, officials from India's three military branches summoned journalists to an outdoor news conference at which they displayed shards of metal they said were fragments of US -made air-to-air missiles that Pakistani jets fired inside India.

The closure of Pakistan's airspace has disrupted not just the country's own air transport but also flights worldwide as airlines were forced to cancel or reroute flights to other destinations that pass over Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir but each only control part of it.

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"Pakistan wants peace, but it should not be treated as our weakness", Khan said.

He was captured and beaten by a mob and taken into custody while the country's leaders pleaded for both sides to show restraint. Pakistani "aircraft attempting to target military installations were intercepted by IAF fighter aircraft, which thwarted their plans". The Maharaja of Kashmir, the local ruler, acceded to India as tribal fighters from Pakistan launched attacks.

Modi, in his first remarks since the pilot's capture, gave a rallying speech ahead of elections in the coming months.

The militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.

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