ISLAMABAD  -   Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi yesterday rejected the speculations that an Israeli pilot was in Islamabad’s custody.

In a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, the FM said Pakistan had captured only one Indian pilot - Abhinandan Varthaman – who was released later.

“There is no Israeli pilot in our custody. The speculations about capture of an Israeli pilot are fake,” he said.

India, he said, was preparing for another military action against Pakistan. “Pakistan needs to stay on high alert till May 23. Pakistan has reliable intelligence that India is devising a new plan. Even the United States has endorsed Pakistan’s viewpoint over Indian claims of downing F-16 fighter jet,” he added.

The meeting - chaired by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed – was attended by Senators Rehman Malik, Sherry Rehman, Mohammed Javed Abbasi, Dr. Asif Kirmani, Nuzhat Sadiq, Mohammed Asad Ali Khan Junejo, Sitara Ayaz, Dr Shahzad Waseem, Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini, Mushahidullah Khan, FM Qureshi and officials from the Foreign Office.

Qureshi expressed disappointment at the Indian government’s decision not to issue visas to Pakistani journalists to cover a meeting of the Kartarpur Corridor. “India cancelled the meeting which was scheduled to be held on April 2 on the Kartarpur Corridor,” he said. Senator Sherry Rehman expressed her concerns over the trapped Pakistanis in jails in the United Arab Emirates.

Qureshi replied that the government has been striving to retrieve prisoners who have completed their jail time. He said 2,107 prisoners from Saudi Arabia will soon return to Pakistan, and in the Islamic month of Ramazan, a good news is expected from the UAE as well.

The committee expressed strong reservations over Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent remarks regarding the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, if Narendra Modi secured victory in the Indian general elections. Qureshi assured members of the committee that he would convey their reservations to the premier.

About the dossier India had handed over to Pakistan, the minister said there was nothing new in it. “Pakistan had downed two Indian fighter jets while India shot down its own helicopter which killed their six people,” he added.

An official statement issued after the meeting said the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs was told by the Foreign Minister that Pakistan had a policy of de-escalation while at the same time staying vigilant to any possible aggression from the Indian side.

The Foreign Minister said that in the wake of the Indian aggression and trespassing along LoC, Pakistan’s response was aimed at stopping aggression but at the same time “showing our capabilities.”  He observed that the world had now seen the reality of Indian claims of killing 300 terrorists and shooting down our F-16.

On questions asked by Senators regarding release of the Indian pilot and the clams of a second pilot, the Foreign Minister told the committee that there should be no misconception about who decided the release of the Indian pilot as it was the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision himself.

He said that after releasing the pilot and the gesture being received warmly in the international community, Pakistan also sent the Pakistani High Commissioner back to his work which was followed by the Indian High Commissioner resuming his duties.

Qureshi said that India warned Pakistan of international isolation but since the incident Pakistan is maintaining regular relationship with different countries and foreign ministers of Luxemburg, Germany, Bahrain and EU Representatives have recently visited the country.

He also said that the incident and the increased human rights violations have backfired at India and the scenario in IOK is now changing with more and more opposition to Indian atrocities. He said that Pakistan does not have any favourites in Indian political atmosphere and government has to deal with whosoever comes in power in India.

Earlier, Rehman Malik moved a resolution which was unanimously approved by the committee. The resolution strongly condemned the announcement of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to scrap the Articles 35 A and 370 of the Indian Constitution as Prime Minister Narendra Modi of BJP declared in his election manifesto to cease the autonomous status of the State of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) which is sheer violation of the UN resolution.

Senator Rehman Malik said that Indian premier Narendra Modi was using RSS for cleansing of Muslims in Kashmir as he wanted to settle the criminals and terrorists of RSS there.

The Committee also discussed matters of providing relief to Pakistani people in jails in UAE and other countries and the matters of role of Pakistani embassies at International Conferences. The Committee referred the matters of disrespectful behaviour with members of Parliament to the privileges Committee and at the same time asked the Foreign Office to draft Standard Operating Procedures for dealing with international visits.

The Foreign Minister said that Parliamentarians ought to be respected and the attitude of embassies should be democratic but the limitations of the embassies in terms of finances and human resource also need to be understood.

The Committee recommended setting up a Public Diplomacy Office and providing it a transparently administered fund to improve the diplomacy role of Pakistani missions abroad in promoting Pakistan’s image. The recommendation was welcomed by the minister who recommended sending the same to the Finance Division as well.