Pakistan offer of consular access a sham

Pakistan’s offer of consular access to Indian convict Kulbhushan Jadhav with conditions is a clever ploy to seemingly and superficially meet the directive of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its recent order but at the same time not to provide unimpeded access to the former Indian Navy officer. In the bargain, Jadhav, who has remained imprisoned in Pakistan on espionage charges since March 2016, will be denied the freedom to communicate freely with diplomats, lawyers and other representatives of his parent country.

That this will defeat the very purpose of the ICJ seems of no concern to the. Pakistani captors who are in actual fact armymen who have a stake in ensuring that confirmation of the suspected torture and the defiance of the Vienna convention does not come out in the open. By insisting that Jadhav would be monitored when he meets the Indians, Pakistan wants one of its officers present in the meeting and also wants CCTV cameras installed as was the case when Jadhav’s family had met him. Rightly, India has responded by saying that Pakistan must provide consular access to Jadhav in an environment “free from the fear of intimidation and reprisal”.

The Pakistani position that access to Jadhav would be provided according to Pakistani law and not international law is a violation of the basic principle of natural justice and a negation of ICJ’s directive to Pakistan. It is indeed now incumbent on India not only to take the matter to the ICJ but also escalate it in the U.N. Security Council if need be. Pakistan’s position is so manifestly ridiculous that it is bound to be rejected by the ICJ and the international community at large. The Vienna Convention is crystal clear on this issue. It says Article 36 paragraph 1(a) of the Convention says that “consular officers shall be free to communicate with nationals of the sending State and to have access to them. Nationals of the sending State shall have the same freedom…to communication with and access to consular officers of the sending State.” There is no reason why India must accept the Pakistani position which is so blatantly flawed. Pakistan’s credibility as a responsible country respecting international laws and conventions has come under question many times. Its record of sheltering and fuelling terror has also come under the scrutiny of the international community. India must press on for unimpeded consular access to Jadhav if such access is to have any meaning. Yet again, Pakistan’s bluff needs to be called.

Criminality in politics must be curbed

Despite so much lip service to tackling criminalisation of politics, there is little letup in criminals, gangsters and hoodlums being elected to positions of power in the country. The public outcry over accusations of rape against jailed BJP legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar has sent political parties in Uttar Pradesh running for cover. If criminalisation is to be curbed, public opinion needs to assert itself comprehensively and in a sustained manner.

If Sengar, who is now in jail for the last two years and under first suspension and now expulsion by the BJP, has suffered some jolts in recent times, it is because the media and people at large picked up cudgels against him and his alleged excesses. Ironically, the two regional parties that are shouting the most against Sengar and the BJP–-Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party--- were fuelling Sengar overlordism in his formative years before he joined the BJP in 2017. It only goes to show that hypocrisy apart, all major parties are guilty of harbouring and encouraging goondaism.

In fact, this competitive fuelling of criminality among parties is at the root of the proliferation of anti-social activities of criminal elements. The lack of political will to curb goondaism is also responsible for the Election Commission failing to come down hard on it. It is important that the Commission codify procedures for de-criminalising politics. In that task, any dragging of feet by political parties must be duly unmasked. The use of money and muscle power, which sometimes results in candidates of dubious credentials making it to legislatures must be curbed by all manner of means. This is a challenge for the Modi government in its new avatar.

- S Sadanand

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