Freed by Pak, IAF Pilot Abhinandan Returns Home

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WAGAH — Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman finally returned to India through the Attari-Wagah joint check-post in Amritsar on Friday night.

The Indian air force officer, who was expected to return much earlier, crossed into the Indian side after 9.15 pm.

“Wing Commander Varthaman has just been handed over,” said an Indian official.

After the Pakistani officials handed him over, Indian officials took him over to the Indian side at the land check post.

He had earlier undergone a  medical check-up at Wagah in preparation for the handing over.

The official formalities, including the signing of necessary documents and a medical examination by the International Committee of Red Cross, were also completed, reports said.

Hundreds of people had gathered at the border check post from early in the morning to welcome the 35-year-old Wing Commander, who was captured on Wednesday by Pakistan.

On Friday morning, India’s Acting High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia arrived at the Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad for a briefing on the imminent release of Wing Commander Abhinandan.

 Wing Commander Abhinandan is to be accompanied back by India’s air attache, who was headed to Lahore with the IAF pilot’s travel documents, Pakistani media reports said.

The  Pakistani authorities brought him from Rawalpindi to Lahore and handed over first to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) under rules of the Geneva Convention before being brought to the JCP on Friday afternoon.

The Border Security Force (BSF), which mans the JCP and the 553-km long International Border with Pakistan in Punjab, was at high alert, with Punjab Police and other security agencies stationed and additional personnel since early Friday morning.

The border Retreat ceremony was also cancelled for the day in view of his return.

Varthaman will be debriefed by defence and security officials after his return before he is taken to New Delhi from the Amritsar airport.

On Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that the country will free Varthaman as a “peace gesture”.

Following Tuesday’s cross-LoC airstrike by India, the Pakistan Air Force carried out retaliatory aerial strikes. However, India claimed they failed to hit any target.


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