ISLAMABAD: Described as the biggest proof of Indian interference in Pakistan, Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav has been court-martialled and sentenced to death by a military tribunal for espionage and fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.
“Indian RAW Agent / Naval officer 41558Z Commander Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav alias Hussein Mubarak Patel was arrested on March 3, 2016 through a Counter Intelligence Operation from Mashkel, Balochistan, for his involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan.
“The spy has been tried through Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and awarded death sentence,” the military’s public affairs wing, ISPR, announced on Monday.
The FGCM is the military equivalent of a civilian criminal trial and is conducted by a military tribunal.
ISPR says lawyer was provided to the Indian spy; Delhi to consider it a pre-meditated murder if the convict is hanged
The sensational spy story that began in March last year and witnessed several twists climaxed with the sentencing and analysts feel it would not be the end of the tale and rather it would be sometime before it reaches a closure.
The ISPR announcement did not say when the trial commenced, how long it continued and when the verdict was handed down. It only mentioned that the sentencing had been ratified by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday.
Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had last month told the Senate that a criminal case against Jadhav was being registered for prosecuting him for his involvement in terrorism.
Earlier in January, Pakistan’s envoy at the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi had submitted a dossier to Secretary General Antonio Guterres containing proof of Jadhav’s subversive activities.
The confession and trial
Jadhav was tried under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952 and Section 3 of the Official Secret Act (OSA) 1923 and found guilty of all charges, the Inter-Services Public Relations said.
Section 59 of the PAA provides for the trial of those accused of civilian offences. Section 3 of the OSA, meanwhile, is a wide-ranging law covering various espionage-related activities.
Jadhav had in a recorded statement released last year, weeks after his arrest, confessed that he had been, “directing various activities in Balochistan and Karachi at the behest of RAW [Research and Analysis Wing] and deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi.”
He had disclosed that he reported to Anil Kumar Gupta, joint secretary of RAW, helping him liaise with his contacts in Pakistan, especially in the Balochistan Student Organisation.
According to the ISPR, Jadhav had recorded the confessional statement in the presence of a magistrate in which he accepted that he had been tasked by RAW to “plan, coordinate and organise espionage / sabotage activities aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of Law Enforcement Agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi”.
Pakistan envoy summoned
India reacted angrily. Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and handed a demarche in which the Indian government questioned Jadhav’s capture in Pakistan and fairness of the trial.
The Indian stance was that their high commissioner in Islamabad was never intimated about the start of the trial and dismissed the FGCM’s proceedings as “farcical” and the provision of defence lawyer as “absurd”. The MEA said India had sought consular access to Jadhav 13 times since his arrest was made public.
It may be recalled that the bilateral consular access agreement signed in 2008 does not provide for those arrested for spying.
The ISPR insists that Jadhav was accorded due process during the trial and had been provided a defence lawyer.
India, meanwhile, according to the Indian media, has decided to stop the release of 12 Pakistani prisoners, who were to be repatriated this week after completing their sentences.
Future course of action
Jadhav now has got 40 days to file an appeal against the FGCM in the army’s court of appeal, according to retired Col Inamur Rahim, a military law expert.
In case the appeal court upholds the FGCM verdict, Jadhav would have the opportunity to seek mercy from the army chief and the president of Pakistan.
Simultaneously, Col Inam said, the convict could approach a high court if he felt that due process was not observed during his trial and his fundamental rights as an accused were not fulfilled.
The government in Islamabad preferred silence after the decision was released to media. There was no official statement from any of the ministries concerned.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, talking to a TV channel, said that the FGCM decision would send a strong message to those involved in terrorism and conspiring against Pakistan.
However, the Indian government said that if Jadhav was hanged it would be tantamount to pre-meditated murder.
According to Indian reports, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar while delivering his demarche to High Commissioner Basit described the trial proceeding as ‘farcical’.
The Indian official highlighted what he claimed was the absence of any credible evidence against Jadhav.
“If this sentence against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the Government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder,” the demarche stated.
Reports quoted the demarche as saying that Jadhav’s presence in Pakistan was never explained and, it added, that he was kidnapped from Iran.
“The claim in the ISPR release that Shri Jadhav was provided with a defending officer during the so-called trial is clearly absurd in the circumstances,” it said.
Our correspondent in New Delhi contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2017