Pakistan can proclaim from housetops that it has been vindicated by the International Court of Justice but it cannot convince the world that it has been delivered a sharp wrap on the wrist in the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national in illegal custody of Pakistan since March 2016.
It is another matter that despite the ICJ rejecting the Pakistan claims, and ordering it not to press ahead with the execution of Jadhav and instead `review and reconsider’ his conviction by a military court, Jadhav is unlikely to be freed anytime soon.
For, Pakistan is using him as a pawn in its long-standing fight with India and would not relent unless this country softens its stand on the resumption of dialogue. Jadhav, a former commander in Indian Navy, was in Iran on a business assignment, when he was kidnapped by the ISI agents and accused of fomenting terror in Baluchistan.
The Indian authorities were not informed of his arrest while a military court extracted a confession from the hostage and convicted him for anti-Pakistan activities, awarding death sentence for his alleged crimes.
All this while, consular access was denied to Jadhav in total violation of the Vienna convention nor was he allowed the assistance of a lawyer to plead his case. It was a kangaroo court which had decided to award him death sentence long before the trial.
The so-called confession was not even the videotape on which it was recorded from the abused and tortured captive. When India went to the ICJ against the violations of the Vienna convention, Pakistan initially argued that the ICJ had no jurisdiction.
The argument was rejected. Denial of consular access to Jadhav was forbidden under the international convention regardless of the charge, the ICJ in a 15-1 judgment said.
Another rap for Pakistan was the court ruling that Jadhav was not informed of his rights. Remember that Ajmal Kasab, one of the butchers in the 9/11, was provided a lawyer at State-expense and his family duly informed soon after his capture by the Mumbai Police.
Jadhav was taken hostage at gun point from Iran and the ISI kept his whereabouts hidden from the Indian authorities for a very long time against the Vienna convention.
Meanwhile, Pakistan had tried to exploit the illegal detention of Jadhav to establish some sort of equivalence with India insofar as it claimed in foreign chanceries that India was a sponsor of terror.
It was wholly falsely claimed that the retired Indian Navy officer was behind a spate of killings in Baluchistan. Following the much-awaited ICJ judgement, Pakistan claimed victory.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Jadhav will remain in Pakistan and `will be treated in accordance with the laws of Pakistan’. Prime Minister Imran Khan in his turn struck a celebratory note, claiming vindication.
Quite clearly, the Pakistan Government felt the need to hoodwink its people, trying to turn a sharp rap on the knuckles into an unalloyed victory. As the Indian Foreign Office said it was a desperate attempt to twist the ICJ verdict.
“Frankly, it seems they are reading from a completely different verdict. The main verdict is in 42 pages. If there is no patience to go through 42 pages, they should go through the 7–page press release where each and every point is ruled in India’s favour,” the Foreign Office spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar said.
There was no scope for confusion, the verdict was so clear-cut. Yet, the prospect of Pakistan heeding the word and spirit of the verdict and providing demonstrative relief to Jhadav remains bleak.
For such is the nature of the beast called the Rawalpindi GHQ and its far more evil creature, the ISI, that pressured further it would defy all international sanctions to persist with its singular anti-India agenda.
By S Sadanand