Newly reappointed Law Minister Farogh Naseem on Friday clarified on the floor of the National Assembly that Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav's sentence "had not been forgiven" and neither had the government given him an "NRO".
Naseem said an ordinance was needed to abide by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgement regarding Jadhav so India could be stopped from approaching the United Nations Security Council against Pakistan.
"India has already made preparations if we do not do this," Naseem said, adding that India "wanted that Pakistan not follow the ICJ judgement so that they could approach the UNSC for bringing all kinds of resolutions, sanctions and declare Pakistan a rogue state".
"We have to follow ICJ decisions as we are part of a comity of nations. If we had not promulgated this ordinance, then India could use Article 94 of UNSC and Article 60 of ICJ statute. We cut off India's hands with finality by bringing in this ordinance. Pakistan has done this responsibly," he added.
Naseem said he wanted to clarify the facts so the opposition could understand the context in which the government was tabling the ordinance in the National Assembly.
Holding up a copy of the ICJ judgement, the law minister said the court decided that Pakistan would have to grant [Jadhav] consular access and review and reconsider the case. "It placed an obligation on Pakistan. Paragraphs 144-148 of the judgement showed that ICJ placed the obligation on the country to enact a law for effective review and reconsideration [of the case]."
He said that this was why an ordinance was framed and promulgated, denying claims by the opposition that it was similar to the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
"An NRO is what Gen Musharraf promulgated to forgive sentences and suspend pending proceedings. We have not forgiven any sentence or stopped proceedings [against Jadhav]. We have to follow the ICJ's decision as a responsible state."
"ICJ has directed us to ensure effective review and reconsideration. As a responsible state we made a law. This ordinance states that Jadhav himself or a representative from the Indian embassy can file an appeal on his behalf," he said, terming it a "matter of national interest".
The law minister also clarified that the ordinance was not person specific. "It is for the future as well so that if a similar situation arises in the future, the concerned state does not file a case in the ICJ but approaches the Islamabad High Court instead."
"When Kulbushan Jadhav was arrested on March 3, 2016, the [then] federal government took a decision that consular access would not be given to him because he was guilty of espionage," Naseem reminded the house.
He also went on to tell the opposition that it was the PML-N government which took a decision to not bar the jurisdiction of the ICJ on Pakistan.
"I am not playing a blame game but Pakistan could have expressed reservation, gotten out of optional protocol and jurisdiction of the ICJ verdict. But this did not happen and [the government] exercised its discretion.
"The second important date is May 8, 2017 when India filed a case in the ICJ. We were unable to judge [the situation correctly] then. When they filed the case, that was a cut off date. After that, Pakistan could not come out of ICJ's jurisdiction."
Timeline: How the Kulbhushan Jadhav saga unfolded
Responding to a question as to why the government did not inform the opposition before promulgating the ordinance, he said that the Constitution stated that if Parliament was not in session, the ordinance could be promulgated by the governor or president.
"There is no clause that says the opposition and Parliament have to be taken in confidence first," he emphasised.
Referring to the opposition, he claimed that when they brought ordinances in their tenures, they did not consult the opposition. "This ordinance was published in the gazette on May 21, 2020. The Supreme Court has declared that when it is published in the gazette, it is a notice to public at large."
A day earlier, PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari criticised the government for passing the ordinance in May "without telling anyone" even though both the houses were in session during June.
He recalled that the Indian pilot Abhinandan, who was captured after his plane was shot down by the Pakistan Air Force in Azad Jammu and Kashmir last year, was "offered tea and sent back quickly".
"And now, Kulbhushan Jadhav who admitted to spying and committing terror offences in Pakistan, is being granted an NRO by Imran Khan."
Naseem takes oath as law minister for third time
Earlier today, Naseem was appointed as law minister for the third time and was administered the oath of office by President Arif Alvi, according to a government notification.
Naseem had resigned as the law minister on June 1 in order to represent the government in the presidential reference filed against Supreme Court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
Through an official statement, Naseem had announced that he would represent the federation in the case and, therefore, he had stepped down as the law minister.
Earlier in November, Naseem had quit the ministry to pursue a case in the Supreme Court about the extension of the army chief’s tenure. He appeared in the Supreme Court as counsel for Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
He then took the oath as the law minister on Nov 29, only a day after the apex court had announced its verdict in the case.