ISLAMABAD: Warning that stand-off with India over convicted spy Kulbhushan Jadhav could escalate, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Friday called for “active diplomacy” to prevent the crisis from aggravating and made public the timeline of the spy’s trial in a military tribunal and the subversive activities in which he was found to have remained involved.
Mr Aziz made this call at a press conference shortly after Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale visited the Foreign Office for seeking consular access to Jadhav, who has been sentenced to death for espionage and involvement in subversive acts, and asking for a copy of the judgement and the charge sheet against him.
“More active diplomacy is therefore needed to arrest the growing crises in India-Pakistan relations before it becomes even more serious,” the adviser said while reading out a statement at the presser on Jadhav’s trial.
He did not take questions.
India had sharply reacted to the announcement of death sentence and dismissed the proceedings as “farcical”. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called Jadhav “son of India” and said that his execution would be taken as “premeditated murder”. She said India could go to any extent to prevent his execution.
Jadhav, a serving Indian Navy officer assigned to RAW, is described in Pakistan as the irrefutable evidence of Indian involvement in terrorism in the country.
Mr Aziz observed that India had resorted to “flimsy propaganda campaign”, “inflammatory statements” and “rhetoric” after failing to explain what Jadhav had been doing in Pakistan impersonating as a Muslim and carrying genuine Indian travel documents issued in his fake Muslim name. This, he warned, would “only result in escalation”.
Aziz makes public timeline of Jadhav’s trial, his subversive activities
“We expect India to behave responsibly and refrain from issuing statements that will further aggravate people-to-people hostility,” the adviser said and defended the trial as “transparent” and “in accordance with the law of the land”. Moreover, he maintained, the conviction was based on “credible” and “specific” evidence.
There have been several calls for Pakistan to share details of the allegations against which Jadhav had been ‘court-martialled’. The trial through a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) had been kept secret till its decision was ratified by Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.
Sharing for the first time the terrorist acts in which the RAW agent was found guilty, Mr Aziz said he was involved in IED (improvised explosive device) and grenade attacks in Gwadar and Turbat, attacks on radar station and civilian boats in sea at Jiwani port, funding of terrorist and secessionist elements, explosion of gas pipelines and electricity pylons in Sibi and Sui, IED explosions in Quetta in 2015, attacks on Hazara community and Shia pilgrims travelling to Iran by road, and attacks on Frontier Corps, FWO and other law enforcement agencies in Turbat, Panjgur, Gwadar, Pasni and Jiwani in 2014-15.
The adviser rejected the speculation in India that the trial was conducted summarily. According to the timeline of the case provided to the media, it took over a year from Jadhav’s confessional statement recorded weeks after his arrest to the confirmation of the sentence by Gen Bajwa. The military tribunal worked for over five months, holding four hearings between Sept 21, 2016 and Feb 12, 2017.
The tribunal’s verdict became legally valid after it was endorsed by the army chief on April 10.
Transparency, the adviser underscored, was ensured during the trial, Jadhav’s rights as an accused were respected and due process was observed.
Listing the steps taken for transparency of the trial, he said Jadhav’s confessional statement was recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 of CrPC, proceedings were conducted under the Law of Evidence (Qanoon-i-Shahadat 1984), a law qualified field officer was provided to defend him during the trial, all statements of witnesses were recorded under oath in the presence of the accused in the court and he was given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses, a fully qualified law officer of Judge Advocate General (JAG) Branch remained a part of the court, and the punishment after the trial was awarded by the highest forum.
The adviser explained the appellate process that was available to Jadhav – an appeal in the appellate court and mercy petitions with the army chief and later with the president of Pakistan.
The military leadership had a day earlier at the corps commanders conference categorically stated that there could be “no compromise on anti-state acts”.
Jadhav has almost 190 days between various stages of the appeal – 40 days to file an appeal, 60 days after the appellate court’s verdict for making a mercy petition before the army chief and, if turned down, another 90 days for asking the president for pardon.
Mr Aziz in his press statement further responded to Indian criticism that Pakistan did not grant consular access to Jadhav. He instead blamed India for it.
“Letter of Assistance requesting specific information and access to certain key witnesses was shared with the government of India on Jan 23, 2017. There has been no response from the Indian side so far,” he noted, adding: “It was non-cooperation and lack of Indian response to Pakistan’s request for legal assistance, due to which consular access has not been provided to Mr Jadhav.”
Mr Aziz recalled that India too had not been granting Pakistani requests for access to its nationals detained there.
Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to make a fresh request for consular access and seek copies of charge sheet and military tribunal’s verdict. The meeting took place on Mr Bambawale’s request.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, the envoy said the Indian government would like to appeal the court martial decision, but for that he wanted to get a copy of the charge sheet and the verdict.
“We have at the minimum asked for consular access as per international law and on humanitarian basis,” he said, adding that Ms Janjua did not respond.
Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2017