COLOMBO: Pakistan’s blind cricket team comfortably beat their Sri Lankan counterparts by 48 runs in the first Twenty20 of a three-match series here at Bloomfield Cricket Ground on Wednesday.
After Sri Lanka decided to put the opposition in to bat first, openers captain Nisar Ali and Mohammad Rashid gave Pakistan a brilliant stand of 197. At this point, Rashid was run out for a magnificent 44-ball 92.
Nisar, who was later declared man-of-the-match, kept the Sri Lankan bowling attack at bay as he smashed an unbeaten 140 off 64 balls as Pakistan posted a healthy 261-1 in the stipulated 20 overs.
Sri Lanka in reply got a good opening stand too and their first wicket fell at the score of 153 in the 15th over. Saman Kumara then was dismissed for a 41-ball 64. His opening partner Dimithu Sandrawan was sent back soon after he made a 46-ball 67.
Sri Lanka in the end could manage to collect 213 runs in their 20 overs while losing six wickets.
Janbaz Khan, Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan in Colombo, Pakistan Blind Cricket Council chairman Syed Sultan Shah and Chaminda Pushpakumara, the Sri Lanka Cricket Association secretary for visually handicapped, were the guests of honour on this occasion and gave the prizes.
In light of the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India, operations of the Samjhota Express have been suspended temporarily, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Thursday.
A press statement by the Foreign Office (FO) said that the operations will resume “as soon as the security situation improves between India and Pakistan”.
The Samjhota Express runs twice a week (Monday and Thursday) from Lahore to Attari via the Wagah railway station. Yesterday, the Pakistan Railways had said that the train would depart for Attari at 8am as usual.
Security arrangements across Pakistan have been tightened in light of tensions between the two neighbouring countries. Flight operations were suspended when Pakistani airspace was closed to commercial flights on Wednesday.
Tensions between the neighbouring countries escalated after an Indian aircraft violated Pakistan’s airspace on Tuesday. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had “immediately scrambled” and the Indian plane went back. Yesterday, the PAF undertook strikes across the Line of Control from Pakistani airspace, following which two Indian aircrafts violated the LoC again and were shot down by the PAF.
The civil and military leadership of Pakistan has urged India to deescalate tensions while emphasising its right to respond to Indian aggression.
In response to strikes by IAF, PAF shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace.
In the early hours of Wednesday, two Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft were shot down by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in response to unprovoked aggression a day earlier.
DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor in a tweet said: “In response to PAF strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF crossed LOC. PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K while other fell inside IOK. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area.”
The military spokesperson, who had earlier confirmed the capture of an Indian pilot, said in a press conference that Pakistani forces have now captured two IAF pilots after their jets were shot down in air combat by PAF aircraft.
Tensions have been high between the two nuclear-armed rivals since a suicide bomber, a native of Indian-occupied Kashmir, crashed a car packed with 300kg of explosives into a convoy of Indian Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF), killing more than 40 paramilitary personnel, and injuring at least 70 on February 14 in Pulwama.
The PAF engaged with six selected Indian targets from within its airspace in Bhimbar Gali, KG Top, and the Indian supply Depot in Naryan.
“It was unanimously decided by the Armed Forces that no military installations or civilian areas would be targeted, and the strikes would be conducted in a responsible manner to avoid collateral damage and further escalation in the region,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said.
The military spokesperson said that Pakistan has the capability and the will to engage in a conflict that is not of its own making but chooses to not enter into conflict at the cost of regional peace.
He went on to say, that this was not ‘retaliation’ in its true sense, but “we want to avoid a full-blown war”.
There were additional reports going around that a Pakistani F-126 plane had also been shot down. The military spokesperson quelled any rumours and informed that PAF did not use any F-16s in its latest engagement.
Two Indian aircraft entered Pakistani air space, engaged with PAF, and as a result, were shot down. The wreckage of one of the planes landed in Azad Jammu Kashmir, and the wreckage of the other plane landed in the Indian-occupied Kasmir.
There are also intelligence reports of another Indian plane being shot down, but the wreckage is reportedly deep in Indian territory. There was no engagement with the third IAF plane.
Two IAF pilots were captured by the armed forces on the ground. One of the pilots, who was critically injured, was sent to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) and is being treated. The second captured pilot is now in the army’s custody.
According to the ISPR, documents were recovered from the two captured pilots
According to the military spokesperson, “The state of Pakistan, the government of Pakistan, the Armed Forces of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan have always conveyed a message of peace India, and the route to peace goes through the way of ‘dialogue’. Both countries have nuclear capabilities, but war is actually the failure of policy, which Indian needs to understand.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday afternoon addressed the nation and decision makers in neighbouring India to reiterate his message of peace and offer for dialogue.
The address came after Pakistan Air Force (PAF) successfully targeted non-military targets across the Line of Control earlier in the day to demonstrate Pakistan’s aggressive capabilities, and shot down two Indian Air Force jets after they crossed the LoC.
Two Indian Air Force pilots are currently in the captivity of Pakistan’s armed forces. One has been identified as Wing Commander Abhi Nandan. The other as yet unidentified pilot is receiving medical care at a military hospital.
“I wanted to take the nation into confidence over the developments since yesterday morning,” the premier said as he began his address.
“We offered peace to India after what happened in Pulwama. I understood the pain of the families [who lost family members in Pulwama]. I have visited hospitals and seen the pain of people affected by violence. We have lost 70,000 of our own and I know what those who are left behind and those who are injured feel.
“[On that basis], we offered India that we would cooperate. It is not in Pakistan’s interest to let our land be used for terrorism. There is no dispute there. Yet, I had still feared that India would [ignore the offer and] still take action, and I had therefore warned India against aggression and said we will be compelled to respond because no sovereign country can allow that [violation of its sovereignty].”
“When India stuck yesterday morning, me and the army chief spoke. We did not respond in haste — this would have been irresponsible as it would have resulted in casualties on their side. Once we assessed the damage caused, we were ready to take action.
“The sole purpose of our action [today] was to convey that if you can come into our country, we can do the same,” he said, referring to the engagement of non-military targets across the LoC.
“Two of their MiGs have been shot down [by Pakistani forces],” he noted.
“It is important where we go from here. From here, it is imperative that we use our heads and act with wisdom,” he continued.
“All wars are miscalculated, and no one knows where they lead to. World War I was supposed to end in weeks, it took six years. Similarly, the US never expected the war on terrorism to last 17 years.
“I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford such a miscalculation? If this escalates, things will no longer be in my control or in Modi’s,” the prime minister continued.
“I once again invite you: we are ready. We understand the grief India has suffered in Pulwama and are ready for any sort of dialogue on terrorism. I reiterate that better sense should prevail.
“Let’s sit together and settle this with talks,” the prime minister concluded.
Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on Wednesday — a day after India violated the Line of Control (LoC) — undertook strikes across the LoC from Pakistani airspace.
“Sole purpose of this action was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self defence. We do not wish to escalate but are fully prepared if forced into that paradigm,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).
Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the director general (DG) of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), confirmed the action via a tweet, adding that “in response to PAF strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF [Indian Air Force] crossed LoC.”
“PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K [Azad Jammu and Kashmir] while other fell inside IoK [Indian occupied Kashmir]. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area.”
While addressing a press conference an hour after his tweet, Maj Gen Ghafoor said that two pilots have been arrested.
“Our ground forces arrested two pilots; one of them was injured and has been shifted to CMH (Combined Military Hospital) and God willing he will be taken care of,” said the army official. “The other one is with us.”
“Today’s action was in self defence; we don’t want to claim any victory. The way we set out target and made sure that there were no collateral damage; the in-built message was that despite out capability, we look towards peace,” said the army spokesperson.
“Today morning, Pakistan Air Force engaged with six targets at the LoC. Because we are a responsible state and want peace, we decided that we will not use any military target.
“As a result of engaging our target, no human life was affected. Staying within our jurisdiction, six targets were locked. And we carried out the strike,” said the army spokesperson.
“Pakistan is not pushing the environment towards war,” he made it clear, adding Pakistan deliberately avoided escalation. “If that were the case, we could have easily engaged the target, which our Air Force had locked. That would have resulted in human casualties and collateral damage as well.
“We engaged a nearby open space where there were no human lives or military posts. We deliberately avoided the escalation. We only wanted to demonstrate that we could have easily taken the original target, which was their administrative setup and military post. But we did not do that.”
‘Demonstration of our capability’
Regarding the upcoming meeting of the National Command Authority and potential use of nuclear weapon, the DG said: “I have always said that we must not talk about this. It is insane to talk about this. It is a capability and a weapon of political choice. Neither is this our level nor is this a topic that should be talked about.”
“The airspace is closed due to the environment. Pakistan’s response is actually not a retaliation. It is the demonstration of our capability, capacity and will. We stayed within the domain of responsibility as a state that has the potential [to respond].
“We don’t want to escalate the situation. It is up to India now whether they go for the way that we have suggested and which is the requirement of this region: peace. But it is understood that if aggression is imposed on us, then we will respond. But that will be under compulsion,” he added.
Avoiding human loss, collateral damage
“Pakistan has taken strikes at non military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage,” said a statement by the Foreign Office. “For the last few years, India has been trying to establish what they call ‘a new normal’, a thinly veiled term for doing acts of aggression at whatever pretext they wish on a given day.
“If India is striking at so-called terrorist backers without a shred of evidence, we also retain reciprocal rights to retaliate against elements that enjoy Indian patronage while carrying out acts of terror in Pakistan. We do not wish to go to that route and wish that India gives peace a chance and to resolve issues like a mature democratic nation,” the statement added.
A day earlier, the army spokesperson said that the prime minister had asked everyone to get ready for every eventuality. “We are all ready. Now it is time for India to wait for our response,” he asserted.
“The response will come at a point and time of our choosing where our civil military leadership decides, and as a matter of fact, has decided,” he had said, reiterating the statement issued after the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting convened by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“We are peaceful; we didn’t escalate, India did,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi while speaking to ARY. “We exposed their escalations and their false claims, we offered international observers to come and examine the claims of India.
“India, listen: this is a new Pakistan, [there is] new enthusiasm, new valour,” he cautioned the neighbouring country.
“The nation is united, each and every child is standing by the Army and Kashmiris. Even today, our preference is peace. India should review its designs. A new Pakistan has been established,” Qureshi said.
“The next course of action will be devised after the NCA [National Command Authority] session in which military and political leadership are participating,” he added.
Prime Minister Khan has summoned a special meeting of the NCA today. The NCA is the apex civilian-led command headed by the prime minister to oversee the policy formulation, exercises, deployment, research and development, and operational command and control of the country’s nuclear arsenals.
This is a developing story that is being updated as the situation evolves. Initial reports in the media can sometimes be inaccurate.