Pakistan on Wednesday claimed that it shot down two Indian fighter jets over Pakistani air space and arrested a pilot, as it closed its airspace amid escalating tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor claimed that two Indian Air Force pilots were arrested. One pilot is injured and has been shifted to a hospital, while another one is unhurt, the spokesman added.
He also showed items and documents recovered from the arrested pilots.
However, he later said “only one” Indian pilot was under Pakistan army’s custody, retracting from his earlier statement.
“There is only one pilot under Pakistan Army’s custody. Wing Commander Abhinandan is being treated as per norms of military ethics,” Ghafoor said.
“I am an IAF officer. My service No is 27981,” a blindfolded man - who identified himself as Wing Commander Abhinandan - said in a 46-second video released by the Pakistan army.
In a second video, the man refused to talk about the plane he was flying or talk about the mission. He said he was rescued from a mob by a Pakistan army captain.
When asked about his identity, he said he was from down south (India) and a married man.
The veracity of the video could not be ascertained.
In New Delhi, the ministry of external affairs said that Pakistan air force targeted military installations in India in response to Indian counter-terrorism operations but their attempts were foiled successfully though one Indian pilot is “missing in action”.
The MEA said that according to Pakistan the missing IAF pilot was in their custody. “We are ascertaining that,” the MEA spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan closed its airspace for commercial flights and suspended flight operations across major airports, including in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, for an indefinite period.
The airport will be used for “military purposes” till it is reopened for commercial activities, an official told DawnNewsTV, adding that a red alert has also been issued.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, General Ghafoor said one of the IAF aircraft crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir while the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir.
“This morning PAF (Pakistan Air Force) jets while remaining in Pakistani airspace engaged six targets across the LoC,” he said.
“Our pilots locked on those six targets and we struck on open places,” he said, adding that it was decided that the PAF will not hit the military targets.
He said some of the targets were in Bhimber galli and Naran area where the supply depots were engaged from a distance.
“After the PAF strikes, 2 IAF jets entered Pakistani airspace and the PAF took them on and the two IAF were shot down. The wreckage of one (aircraft) fell inside Pakistan (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) while the second fell inside India,” Ghafoor said.
“Original targets were military posts and administrative facilities but we did not target those,” he said.
The spokesman claimed that target engaged by the PAF was changed to avoid any loss of life.
“It was not retaliation in the true sense but it was an action to show that we can retaliate. We do not want to push the region to war. We want peace,” the spokesman asserted.
He also rejected reports that Pakistan used F-16 fighters and one of them was shot down by India.
“Pakistan does not want to go for war, our message is peace. The international community should also play its role,” the spokesman said.
“What we did today is in self-defence. We do not want to celebrate it, as war is victory of none,” he said.
He said war is also a failure of policy.
“We do not want to escalate but we want to follow the path to peace,” he said, adding that the people of both countries and the region should live in pace.
“If you want peace then let us talk. No issue can be resolved through war. India should think about this offer with a cool mind,” he added.