Brave Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned home from captivity in Pakistan on Friday. Billions of people were watching him live walking across the Zero Line at the Attari-Wagah Border. In all those visuals and pictures, Abhinandan was accompanied by a woman and the question that popped in the minds of almost all the Indians was ‘who was the woman walking back with the Indian Air Force (AIF) pilot?’ Some people on social media claimed that she was Wing Commander's wife.
But, no, she was not Abhinandan’s wife. The woman standing beside IAF pilot at the Attari-Wagah border was Dr. Fareeha Bugti, Director (India) in the Pakistan Foreign Office. Bugti is an FSP (equivalent to India's IFS) officer and is in charge of handling India affairs at their Foreign office (counterpart of India's Ministry of External Affairs).
According to reports, Bugti is one of the main officials handling the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is in Pakistan prison. According to reports, she was present during the meeting between Jadhav, his mother and wife in Islamabad on December 25, 2017.
"It is good to be back in my country," was the first reaction of IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan as he set his foot back on Indian soil. This was stated by an official quoting Abhinandan after he received the pilot at the Attari-Wagah border soon after his release by Pakistan.
Abhinandan was captured by Pakistani authorities on February 27 after an air combat between the air forces of the two countries, a day after New Delhi had conducted counter-terror operations in Pakistan's Balakot.
"We are happy to have him back," said a top IAF officer shortly after Varthaman was handed over to Indian authorities.
Abhinandan was in one of the eight MIG-21s that took on the invader and shot down an F-16, according to officials. During the dogfight, his plane was hit and he bailed out, landing in PoK, where he was taken into custody by the Pakistani army.
On Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan told a special joint sitting of Parliament that his government was releasing the pilot as a "peace gesture". However, India has been maintaining that Pakistani decision is in consonance with the Geneva Conventions. After the pilot's release, the Pakistan Foreign Office described him as a Prisoner of War.