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Imran Khan was in Lahore to ensure 'smooth' handing over of Indian pilot: Sources

Wing Commander Varthaman was arrested when his MIG-21 crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after being shot down by Pakistan Air Force for what Islamabad said "violating Pakistani airspace" on February 27.

India TV News Desk Edited by: India TV News Desk
New Delhi Updated on: March 02, 2019 7:33 IST
Imran Khan
Image Source : AP/FILE

Imran Khan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was present in Lahore to oversee the 'smooth' handing over captured Indian Air Force pilot to India at the Wagah border on Friday, official sources said.

Khan arrived in Lahore on Friday afternoon, a couple of hours before IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was brought to the Wagah border from Islamabad, amid high security.

"PM Khan's main purpose of being in the town was to oversee the 'smooth' handing over of the captured Indian pilot to the Border Security Force," an official source told PTI. 

He said during his stay Khan held a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, who praised the premier for ordering the release of the Indian pilot. 

They said this gesture would establish that Pakistan was a peace loving country and wanted peace with its neighbouring countries especially India. 

Buzdar said: "This move will help de-escalte tensions between India and Pakistan." 

"The prime minister stayed in the city till the time the Indian pilot was handed over to his country. Later, he left for Islamabad," the source added.
Pakistan Foreign Office, in a statement issued after handing over of the Indian pilot to India said: "Prime Minister Imran Khan who announced his (Varthaman's) return as a 'goodwill gesture' aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India."

Wing Commander Varthaman was arrested when his MIG-21 crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after being shot down by Pakistan Air Force for what Islamabad said "violating Pakistani airspace" on February 27. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and several Union ministers including Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday welcomed Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman soon after he returned via Wagha border to India.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders took to Twitter to welcome him and hailed his courage and valour.

"Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan! The nation is proud of your exemplary courage. Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians. Vande Mataram!" tweeted Modi.

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(With inputs from agencies)

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