A large number of people have assembled at the Attari Joint Check Post (JCP) here on Friday to receive Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan Varthaman who is likely to be released by Pakistani authorities later in the day.
India's Ministry of External Affairs said late on Wednesday that it "strongly objected to Pakistan's vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force" after images of the pilot's capture were circulated. Indian officials confirmed he had been returned and said he would be taken for medical checks. The Pakistan foreign office issued a statement titled "Return of Indian POW Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman" after the handover that described it as a "gesture of peace" and said Abhinandan "while in captivity, was treated with dignity and in line with worldwide law".
He was then expected to board a flight from Amritsar near the India-Pakistan land border to New Delhi for a debriefing with top air force officials about his captivity.
Officials said the decision has been taken in view of "military requirements" where Wing Commander Varthaman will be handed over to senior Indian Air Force officials. Many youth among the crowd said Pakistan should stop aiding and abetting terror or else be prepared to face consequences.
Following his death, the Foreign Office had expressed grave concern over the death of Pakistani prisoner and said he was "beaten to death by a group of Indian inmates in retaliation of the Pulwama incident".
The closure of Pakistan's airspace in response to escalating tensions with India disrupted major routes between Europe and South East Asia.
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Wing Commander Abhinandan also criticised the Indian press, saying they always exaggerate and say a lot of damaging things that mislead people. However, the eastern side airports - Lahore, Multan, Sialkot, Faisalabab and Bahawalpur - will remain closed till March 4.
Abhinandan Varthaman was forced to eject and landed into the Pakistani side of Line of Control, where he was captured. "(Prime Minister Narendra) Modi will teach them a lesson", one man at Wagah told Indian television. The country had closed its airspace on Wednesday following the escalation, causing disruptions to worldwide air traffic.
"During that half a kilometre run, he fired some more gunshots in the air as well, to frighten the guys but to no avail", said Muhammad Razzaq Chaudhry, 58, one of the eyewitnesses.
Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since their independence from British rule in 1947.
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