Captured Indian Pilot Will Be Released, Pakistan PM Says

China has twice blocked — in 2016 and 2017 — attempts to impose sanctions on Masood Azhar

While addressing the joint session of Pakistani parliament, Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid on Thursday admitted that "14 Indian fighter jets" had entered Pakistan's air space and destroyed madrasa's run by Azhar Sahab (JeM chief Masood Azhar).

Speaker Asad Qaiser chaired the joint session of National Assembly and Senate on Friday in which the parliament strongly condemned the blatant Indian aggression against Pakistan on February 26 and 27, saying it was completely in violation of the United Nations Charter, worldwide law and interstate norms. "They transported me to their unit and provided me first aid". India and Pakistan have fought three wars in the last 70 years, two of which, in 1947 and 1965, were over Kashmir.

Pakistan's decision to release the pilot followed calls by world leaders for Islamabad and New Delhi to de-escalate tensions, including from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Gokhale, who was assisted by officials of the Ministry of External Affairs, informed the members about the air strikes on JeM terror camps in Pakistan as also about the retaliation by the western neighbour, the source said.

He also said that the release of Indian Air Force air commander Abhinandan Varthaman is a gesture of peace and that this should be viewed as Pakistan's attempt to de-escalate tensions between the two countries.

India confirmed the loss of one of its MiG-21s and the capture of its pilot. "He wrote to the Indian Prime Minister to let the two Foreign Minister meet on the sidelines in NY so that they can chart a way forward", he claimed.

On the Indian side of the border, officials greeted the pilot who was in a dark blue suit, accompanied by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross. New Delhi also claims it shot down a Pakistani fighter jet, a claim denied by Islamabad.

China, a close ally of Pakistan, has consistently blocked moves first by India and later by the United States, the UK and France to designate Azhar as a global terrorist by the 1267 Committee by putting technical holds.

Residents of the Pakistani border town of Chikhoti reported heavy shelling overnight and Friday morning. The most recent episode, sparked by an attack on Indian paramilitary police by a Pakistan-based militant group, has left dozens dead.

The Pak Foreign Minister also said that Pakistan does not want to allow organisations to use its soil for goal of terrorism.

Authorities in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir closed all schools and educational institutions in the region and are urged parents to keep their children at home amid mounting tension with neighbouring India.

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