The handing over of IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to India at Wagah was delayed on Friday as he was made to record a video statement by Pakistani authorities before he was allowed to cross the border, according to sources.
It was not clear whether he was made to record the video under duress.
At 8.30 pm (local) time, the Pakistan government released the pilot’s video message to the local media in which he said as to how he was captured.
“Recording of his video message caused delay in his handing over,” a source said.
In the video message, Varthaman said he entered Pakistan’s space to “find a target” but his aircraft was shot down.
“The army personnel saved me from the mob. The Pakistani army is very professional and I am impressed by it,” he said, while criticising the Indian media.
India has maintained that Varthaman’s plane was downed when IAF planes foiled an attempt by Pakistan Air Force to target Indian military installations in Jammu and Kashmir on February 27, a day after New Delhi had conducted counter-terror operations in Pakistan’s Balakot.
He ejected out of the aircraft but drifted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir where he was detained by the Pakistan Army.
Although there has been no official word as to what time he was brought to the Wagah border on Friday, but sources say he reached Lahore after 4 pm.
The Pakistani media reported that “his papers were being checked at the Wagah immigration” that was why he was not being “immediately” handed over to the Indian authorities.
Varthaman was handed over at around 9.20 pm.
The 35-year-old Wing Commander spent nearly 60 hours in Pakistani captivity after his MiG-21 Bison fighter jet was hit by Pakistan Air Force jets near the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday.
Pakistan had earlier on Wednesday circulated videos of the captured pilot being interrogated blindfolded while being tied up with a bloodied face.
The pilot was seen identifying himself as Wing Commander Abhinandan of the IAF. He gives out his service number and refuses to answer further questions.
The videos were however, taken off as India strongly objected to Pakistan’s “vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force” in violation of all norms of the International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention.
Following this, another clip was circulated where the IAF pilot was seen sipping tea saying that he was being “looked after well” by the officers of the Pakistan army.
After immense pressure from India and other nations, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced that the pilot would be released as a “gesture of goodwill”.