ISLAMABAD: The counsel for the Indian High Commission informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday that Deputy High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia showed his intent to explain India’s stance over appointment of counsel for Indian spy Kalbhushan Jadhav but was also concerned about the detention of another Indian national convicted of espionage, Ismail, even after the latter had served out his term.
Appearing before the IHC larger bench, the counsel for the Indian High Commission, Barrister Shahnawaz Noon, apprised the court that the deputy high commissioner with the approval of the court could explain India’s stance over the appointment of counsel for Jadhav.
Naval Commander Jadhav, a senior officer of India’s intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), was sentenced to death by Field General Court Martial in Pakistan on April 10, 2017 after a year-long trial for fomenting terrorism in Balochistan and Sindh. He was arrested in Balochistan in March 2016.
India later moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the court martial and the ICJ on May 18, 2017 stayed the execution pending the final judgement in the case. On July 17, 2019, the ICJ asked Pakistan to suspend the execution but rejected India’s appeal for Jadhav’s release. It ruled that Pakistan would review the entire process of trial and conviction and provide India with consular access to the spy. While Pakistan promulgated ICJ (Review and Reconsideration) Ordinance, 2020 to comply with the ICJ verdict, India has yet to appoint counsel for the spy despite repeated requests.
Barrister Noon informed the IHC larger bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb that India was concerned with regard to the prolonged detention of another spy, Ismail, after completion of his sentence.
Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan apprised the court that the matter had already been taken up with the interior ministry. Since this too was related to the breach of Official Secret Act, the ministry has sought some time to respond, he explained.
The IHC bench sought a report from the attorney general by the next date of hearing on January 14.
Justice Minallah observed that there was no need to detain a prisoner after completion of sentence. “The court would pass an appropriate order by next date if the matter remains unresolved,” he remarked.
The attorney general told the court that on the last date of hearing, he on behalf of the federal government extended an offer for third consular access to Jadhav, but Pakistan had not received any response from the Indian diplomats.
Barrister Noon said the matter related to the appointment of lawyer for the Indian spy had been discussed in detail and Mr Gaurav could explain the stance of the India government before the court.
Justice Minallah said that in order to implement the ICJ judgement, the IHC had been waiting for a response from the Indian government since “it is our duty to ensure fair trial”. If the diplomat wanted to appear before the court, “he is always welcome”, he added.
The attorney general suggested to the court that the Indian deputy high commissioner could come but India should engage a counsel first for the case. Justice Minallah termed it “a fair stance of the attorney general” and asked Barrister Noon to convey this to the Indian High Commission.
The court later adjourned the hearing till January 14, 2021.
Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2020