By now the entire country is an expert on espionage and international law. The year-long Kulbhushan Jadhav saga has been educational, if nothing else. But nobody can still definitively say who he is. Not even his own family, who contradicted his claim of being a serving naval officer. As did the Indian government.

India claims Jadhav has been kidnapped from Iran and framed for political reasons. His family claims he is a retired naval officer who’s been running a cargo business in Iran. Jadhav claims he’s a serving naval officer who was going to retire and start a cargo business in Pakistan. Or something as preposterous.

We, of course, claim that he’s an Indian spy who was facilitating anti-state activities in Karachi and Balochistan. That Jadhav was caught with two passports, one bearing his picture and the name Mubarak Hussein Patel.

Jadhav’s confession — along with the more recent Ehsanullah Ehsan interview, where he says RAW was supporting militant groups in their war against the state of Pakistan — has given more license to a majority that already believes RAW is behind everything bad that happens in Pakistan, including Shahbaz Sharif’s poetry recitations.

The first thing I noticed about Mubarak Jadhav was that he has a very oddly shaped skull. You know that saying about someone’s mother not putting the pillows right when they were a baby? The second thing I noticed was that his passport picture still looks better than mine. The third thing of course were the words ‘Indian Spy’ written above his unconventional head.

A military court tried him last month and as military courts tend to do, awarded him a death sentence, although I’m unsure how that’s an award. The Indian state and media were immediately up in arms. Why wasn’t he given a civilian trial like Ajmal Kasab? Why was he denied consular access? Why couldn’t someone take a better picture of him in a year’s time?

They decided to take the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) — which surprised the government of Pakistan, political analysts and lawyers alike. But it surprised the ICJ most of all. India hasn’t gone to the Court with Pakistan in 18 years, when Pakistan sued for damages after an aircraft was shot down by India in disputed airspace. India argued against the ICJ having jurisdiction, and won.

The ICJ has now stayed the order on Jadhav’s execution. Which prompted everyone in Pakistan to ask, who are they and can they even do that? They are the United Nation’s primary and equally useless judicial branch, and yes they can do that if we let them.

Many ask why we agreed to go to the Court when we weren’t obliged to. This only foments their belief that Nawaz Sharif is secretly holding an Indian passport too, conspiring to make his overlords happy for his business interests. That this entire drama was planned during Indian business tycoon Sajjan Jindal’s (openly) secret meeting with the prime minister in Murree. That Ittefaq Foundries will soon be providing the steel that builds Mumbai. That the motorway will sooner extend to Delhi than Karachi.

Others saw this as a legal fumble. That an ad hoc judge wasn’t appointed by Pakistan on the Court’s panel when there was a provision for it. That the lawyers representing Pakistan’s case were poorly prepared. That the leading lawyer was from Qatar, a place better known for producing mysterious princely letters about monetary gifts than producing top lawyers.

Yet others say there’s no need to panic. The stay on execution is simply because the ICJ feels the case for Jadhav being denied consular access and better newspaper headlines deserves adjudication.

The whole country hasn’t been this obsessed over one Indian man since Arani Jayaprakash raised his finger 10 times to the same bowler, also 18 years ago. In his confessional statement, Jayaprakash admits that Kumble was appealing even between overs and during lunch break, and that he kept raising his finger just to shut him up.

Jadhav’s confession — along with the more recent Ehsanullah Ehsan interview, where he says RAW was supporting militant groups in their war against the state of Pakistan — has given more license to a majority that already believes RAW is behind everything bad that happens in Pakistan, including Shahbaz Sharif’s poetry recitations.

The wildly optimistic of them also believe that this case will open the door for Pakistan to take Kashmir to the ICJ. Only that’s a pretty big piece of land to fit through a door, and take all the way to the Netherlands. Similarly, dismay over the stay order is being countered with elation that the Indus Waters Treaty violations will now be heard and ruled in Pakistan’s favour. Not everything in the past is water under the bridge.

Whatever the case, even if the Court rules in favour of India, for now it will just be for consular access. The chances of Jadhav’s death sentence being overturned here are slim to none. He could, of course, be pardoned by the Prime Minister for diplomatic reasons which, if his opposition is to be believed, he is ready to do as soon as Jindal forwards Modi’s WhatsApp messages.

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 28th, 2017

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