With tension peaking ahead of the World Cup tie between India and Pakistan on Sunday, June 16, a Pakistani television channel has aired a controversial ad featuring IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was in Pakistani captivity for over 60 hours during the India-Pakistan stalemate after the Balakot airstrikes, which is essentially in very poor taste. 

The 33-second advertisement released by Pakistan’s JazzTV had an individual clad in blue, similar to the Indian team’s jersey and sporting Varthaman’s characteristic handlebar moustache. In the ad, the moustachioed man is asked a series of questions pertaining to cricket to which Abhinandan’s only reply is his now famous line, “I’m sorry, I am not supposed to tell you this”, which he was seen saying in an interrogation video released by the Pakistani military after Varthaman was captured and roughed up.

Abhinandan was also mockingly asked by his interviewer, “How’s the tea?”, prompting the same response from the interrogation video, “Tea is really fantastic.” While Abhinandan appeared calm and collected in the video released by the Pakistani military, the ad shows a much more jumpy and nervous moustachioed man. The ad has also come under fire due to its racist overtones with Varthaman’s face being blackened, in reference to his complexion.

With diplomatic tension between the two nations at an all-time high following the Pulwama attack as well as the capture of the IAF pilot, this ad is again a low-blow by Pakistan. The advertisement has managed to successfully create a buzz but its reception has been poor among supporters of both nations. This is not the first time Pakistan has resorted to referencing the IAF pilot, with the same video being used for a tea commercial in March 2019.

Although it is true that controversy sells, this ad comes off as a desperate dig at India just to build hype for the upcoming match on June 16. India has bested Pakistan in the World Cup 5 times now, beginning in 1992 and subsequently in 1996, 1999, 2003, 2011 and 2015. It is safe to say that a lot is riding on the imminent match between India and Pakistan this Sunday. 

India has won both its matches convincingly while Pakistan seems to be blossoming as the World Cup wears on and had also beaten joint-favourites England in a thorough fashion. But instead of beating the Indian team on the field, the psychological warfare here could best be done without. We wait for the Men in Blue to answer how good the Pakistani tea is on Sunday!

(By Aryaman Gupta, an intern with NewsX.com)

                                                                                             He is on Twitter: @aryamangupta99

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