Pakistan’s Jadhav dilemma

Updated - November 19, 2017 03:54 pm IST

Published - November 18, 2017 07:14 pm IST

A sketch of Kulbhushan Yadav by Gurukul students of art at Lalbaugh, on April 15, 2017 in Mumbai as a mark of protest against Pakistan’s death sentence on him.

A sketch of Kulbhushan Yadav by Gurukul students of art at Lalbaugh, on April 15, 2017 in Mumbai as a mark of protest against Pakistan’s death sentence on him.

As officials of the Foreign Office, the Law Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the military met in the office of Attorney-General Ashtar Ausaf last month, they had two proposals on their hands. One was to allow consular access for Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian national sentenced to death on spying charges, and the other was to grant permission to Jadhav’s wife for a meeting with him.

After much deliberation, it was decided that as a goodwill gesture, Jadhav’s wife will be allowed to meet him. The diplomatic note in this regard was sent to the Indian High Commission on November 10.

The proposal to allow consular access was hotly debated, a government representative told The Hindu , requesting anonymity. “It was argued that if consular access is allowed, it will destroy India’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is based on the premise that Pakistan was not granting consular access,” he said. “But a military representative opposed it by saying that the matter is of national security and granting consular access to the Indian government will not be a wise decision.”

The ICJ ordered in May not to carry out Jadhav’s execution, pending a final decision.

Jadhav was arrested by Pakistani authorities in March last year. His video-taped confessional statement was released by the military in which Jadhav stated that he was working for the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing. He was subsequently tried for espionage and conspiracy against Pakistan in a military court and sentenced to death. India dismisses the charges and insists that Jadhav was a retired Navy officer.

Allah Nazar, chief of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), was accused of working with Jadhav. Nazar is reportedly hiding in Afghanistan. His family was briefly detained on the Afghan frontier last month while attempting to cross the border. The BLF has claimed several attacks on security forces and civilians. In the latest, 15 people were killed in an attack in Turbat on November 15. Pakistan has also asked Iran to investigate how Jadhav operated out of its territories for a few years.

As Pakistan prepares its case for the ICJ, scheduled to begin in January, the execution of Jadhav seems unlikely in the near future. “Even if Army Chief General [Qamar Javed] Bajwa rejects Jadhav’s mercy petition, he can appeal in High Court. After that, he can also file a mercy plea with the President,” a government source said. Pakistan will submit its “counter-memorial” to the ICJ by mid-December. The Pakistani side is relying on its argument that the case is a matter of national security and should not be seen as a bilateral diplomatic issue.

Weak point

The Pakistani side fears that the trial of Jadhav by the military court remains one of the weak points in its case. Pakistan claims that Jadhav was a serving naval officer in contradiction to India’s stand that he had retired much earlier. “If India manages to prove in the ICJ that Jadhav was not a serving naval officer, then our case becomes weak. We will have to grant consular access to him,” an official associated with preparing the ‘counter-memorial’ said.

In Pakistan, Jadhav has also become a political issue. Opposition parties have accused the government of being soft on the case. The government dismisses such criticism. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif made a sensational claim in September during his visit to the U.S. that Afghanistan offered Pakistan to exchange Jadhav with the mastermind of the 2014 Army Public School attack in Peshawar in which 144 people, mostly children, were killed. However, he said Pakistan refused the offer.

(Mubashir Zaidi writes for The Hindu and is based in Karachi)

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