Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of “whipping up war hysteria” to win the Lok Sabha elections. Khan’s comments came days the Foreign Policymagazine, citing two unidentified US senior defence officials, claimed that India’s assertion about shooting down the Pakistan F-16 fighter aircraft was untrue.

“The truth always prevails and is always the best policy,” Khan tweeted. “BJP’s attempt to win elections through whipping up war hysteria and false claims of downing a Pakistani F16 has backfired with US Defence officials also confirming that no F16 was missing from Pakistan’s fleet.”

BJP accuses the Opposition of strengthening Pakistan’s claim

The BJP said that the Opposition in India had strengthened Pakistan’s claims by criticising the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government on the matter, PTI reported.

“When you have people like Sam Pitroda and Farooq Abdullah and other Congress leaders distrusting their own government and their own armed forces, obviously you are going to strengthen the hand of the people and the parties, and the countries, who are harbouring terrorism,” Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said. He described the Opposition’s stance as deplorable.

The minister was referring to statements made by Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his party colleagues Sam Pitroda as well as National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah and others about attack. Several Opposition leaders had questioned the proximity of the strike’s timing with the approaching Lok Sabha elections.

Balakot air strike

The Indian Air Force on Friday asserted that it had shot down a Pakistan F-16 fighter aircraft on February 27 and thwarted a retaliatory attempt from the neighbouring country after the Balakot air strikes. The Air Force said it had intercepted a “large force” of Pakistani aircraft and during the ensuing aerial engagement, one of its MiG-21 Bisons had shot down an F-16 in Nowshera, Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan, however, has consistently denied that it had deployed F-16 fighter jets on February 27 and said it had used the JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft on that day.

The Indian Air Force had conducted the Balakot strikes after the February 14 Pulwama terrorist attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force Personnel were killed. The Balakot strike was followed by heightened tensions between the two countries, including aerial skirmishes between India and Pakistan.

On February 27, the Pakistani military claimed it had shot down two Indian Air Force jets – one had crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir. India maintained that Pakistan shot down only one MiG-21 aircraft while the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet during the dogfight.

During the same skirmish, Pakistan had captured Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was released and returned home on March 1.