The Pakistan government on Wednesday for the first time named its two fighter pilots involved in an aerial skirmish with Indian Air Force jets on February 27, PTI reported. Lauding the Pakistan Air Force pilots in the National Assembly, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also claimed they had shot down two Indian planes.
“Pakistan Air Force shot down two Indian aircraft violating Pakistani airspace,” said Qureshi. “One Indian jet was shot down by Squadron Leader Hassan Siddiqui while the other was downed by Wing Commander Nauman Ali Khan.”
Qureshi identified Khan as the pilot who shot down the second Indian fighter jet in the dogfight last week, Dawn reported. On February 27, Pakistani military claimed it had shot down two IAF jets – one had crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir. The aerial combat took place a day after the IAF conducted a cross-border strike in Balakot in a pre-dawn operation. This was in retaliation to the Pulwama suicide bombing on February 14 in which 40 security personnel were killed.
India has maintained that Pakistan shot down one MiG-21 aircraft of the IAF while the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet during the dogfight. Pakistan had also managed to capture IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was released in a goodwill gesture and returned home on March 1.
Qureshi’s statement came after Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari praised Siddiqui for having brought down Varthaman’s jet. “One clarification: Bilawal paid tribute to Hassan Siddiqui as he’s absolutely a national hero,” Qureshi said. “But I would like to clarify that two Indian planes were shot down. The other one was shot down by Wing Commander Nauman Ali Khan.”