Pakistan lawmaker Ayaz Sadiq has sought to retract his statement he made on events leading up to the release of IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman in February last year. The country’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) also came out with a statement to “correct the record” over the episode, Pakistan media reported on Friday.
Sadiq, a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly and also a former Speaker, had set off a social media storm in India with his revelation inside the House that the PTI government led by PM Imran Khan had released Abhinandan in capitulation, fearing an imminent attack from India.
Sadiq had said Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s “legs were shaking” while Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a meeting of parliamentary leaders that India was about to attack their country.
The lawmaker also issued a video statement on Thursday to clarify that the Indian social media posts and TV channel reports about his speech were “totally contrary” to what he had actually said in parliament, reported Karachi-based The Express Tribune.
Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations, on Thursday termed as “disappointing” and “misleading” any attempt to link the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman with anything other than Pakistan’s “mature response as a responsible state,” the Dawn reported.
The chief of the military’s media wing did not name anyone, but his statement came a day after PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq’s controversial statement.
Addressing a press conference with a one-point agenda, the DG ISPR said he sought to “correct the record” on the Abinandan episode.
“A statement was given yesterday which tried to distort the history of issues associated with national security,” he said.
The DG ISPR said following the attack on Indian troops in occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama area, India “showed aggression against Pakistan in violation of all international laws on February 26, 2019, in which not only did it face defeat but was humiliated around the world”.
Sadiq in his retraction accused the media of distorting his statement: “Abhinandan had not come to Pakistan to give out sweets. He had attacked Pakistan and it was a victory for Pakistan when his warplane was downed,” Sadiq said in a video message.
Sadiq said Prime Minister Imran Khan had convened a meeting of parliamentary leaders but “could not muster courage” to face them because he was “worried and sweating”.
“The prime minister appeared to be under pressure, but he didn’t tell us who was pressuring him or on whose instructions he was doing this. He didn’t show up at the meeting which he himself had convened,” Sadiq alleged.
According to him, it was Foreign Minister Qureshi who had told the parliamentary leaders that the “civil leadership” decided to release Abhinandan in greater “national interest”, reported The Express Tribune.
“We were not on board. There was no need to hurry; you could have waited. But it was done in national interest. Imran Khan’s decision betrayed weakness of the civil leadership,” it said.
Qureshi had angrily reacted to Sadiq’s statement which, he said, was “contrary to facts”. “I didn’t expect Ayaz Sadiq to say such a thing,” he said, adding that parliament had been taken into confidence over the intelligence information received regarding tensions with India. This information didn’t involve Abhinandan, he added.
“Such irresponsible statements are being given only to gain political mileage,” he said, accusing the opposition of “misleading” the nation on Abhinandan and Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, the paper reported.
“We don’t want to give India a chance to take Pakistan to the International Court of Justice again,” he added. “An attempt is being made to make the issue of Abhinandan controversial for no reason.”