ISLAMABAD, FEBRUARY 28: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman raised patriotic slogans, fired in the air and stuffed his mouth with documents when he landed on Pakistani soil after ejecting from his fighter jet, says the headman of a village on the other side of the border.
The Indian Air Force pilot, who has been the centre of global attention since his capture on Wednesday, will be released on Friday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced in Parliament.
Recounting the dramatic events leading to his capture, Mohammad Razzaq Chaudhry, the chief of Horran village in Pakistan, told the BBC that he ran to the spot along with other villagers when he saw the MiG 21 crashing to the ground.
Varthaman’s first question on landing was whether he was in India, Chaudhry said, disclosing that the pilot was pelted with stones and also shot in the leg while fleeing.
“My objective was to capture the pilot alive. I had seen the Indian flag on his parachute and knew he was Indian,” Chaudhry was quoted as saying.
According to the 58-year-old eyewitness, Varthaman asked some of the villagers if he was in India, and the villagers tricked him with an affirmative response, leading the pilot to raise patriotic slogans about India.
However, he was in for a shock.
“The boys around him responded by saying, ‘Long live Pakistan’!” Chaudhury told the BBC, adding that Varthaman then pulled out his gun and fired in the air to intimidate them.
The move led to more hostility and the villagers began pelting stones at Varthaman who by then was on the run.
“The boys chased him until he fell into a stream and one of my nephews who was also armed shot him in the leg,” Chaudhry said.
The pilot was then asked to drop his pistol, and was pinned down by a villager to prevent him from using any other weapon that he might have had.
The pilot attempted to destroy the documents in his possession by stuffing them in his mouth. However, the villagers managed to get hold of some papers which were later handed over to the army, the BBC reported.
Varthaman was also thrashed by the “angry” mob until the Pakistani Army came to his rescue.
“Our boys were angry and continued to force their way closer to him to punch and slap him, though some of them tried to stop the aggressors. I also told them not to harm him, to leave him alone until the army officers arrived,” Chaudhry said.
Pakistan prime minister Khan termed the decision to release him a “peace gesture”.