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Wing Commander Abhinandan to be released on Friday, scores assemble at Wagah border to welcome IAF pilot

Varthaman, who is in the cantonment town of Rawalpindi, is expected to be taken by air to Lahore and then by road to the Wagah border.

Published: 01st March 2019 10:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st March 2019 12:48 PM   |  A+A-

Indians shout slogans carrying a huge garland as they wait to welcome Indian pilot at India Pakistan border at Wagah. (Photo | AP)

By Online Desk

ATTARI:  Scores of people 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.

How will Abhinandan Varthaman's release happen

  • Abhinandan, who is in the cantonment town of Rawalpindi, is expected to be taken by air to Lahore

  • From Lahore he will be taken by road to the Wagah border.

  • Sources said that the pilot is likely to be handed over first to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) under rules of the Geneva Convention

  • Abhinandan will then be brought to the Attari Joint Check Post on Friday afternoon where he would be allowed to cross over to India.

  • The IAF pilot will be debriefed by defence and security officials after his return

  • Abhinandan will then be taken to New Delhi from the Amritsar airport.

Abhinandan's parents, Air Marshal S. Varthaman (Retired) and mother Shobha Varthaman, who is a doctor, were cheered by passengers when they boarded a flight from Chennai to New Delhi on Thursday evening. They are expected to be in Attari to welcome their son back home.

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People started arriving in Attari, around 30 km from the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, since 6 a.m. Their numbers swelled by 9 a.m.

"We have come here to welcome our country's hero back home. We will give him a grand welcome. He showed a lot of bravery in the air combat and even after being captured by the Pakistanis," Jitender, a resident of Amritsar, who arrived here with his friends, said.

The 35-year-old Wing Commander was captured on Wednesday by Pakistan after his MiG-21 Bison fighter jet was hit by Pakistan Air Force jets near the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

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

"Many celebrities and other important people come to Attari border on different occasions. But today, a real hero is coming back. We will give him a a big and warm welcome with dhol and bhangra," Manjit Singh, who was carrying a dhol, said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday that the captured IAF pilot will be freed as a "goodwill gesture" after New Delhi sought his unconditional, immediate and unharmed release.

(With IANS inputs)

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