What the media isn't telling you about Kulbhushan Jadhav in the aftermath of ICJ judgment

The former Indian naval officer remains under lock and key, unaware of international legal battles being waged on his behalf by his country.

 |  5-minute read |   20-05-2017
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The ICJ's decision on the death sentence awarded by Pakistan's military court to Kulbhushan Jadhav, released a couple of days ago, has India agog, and Pakistan is in disarray.

While Indian media channels boasted of the decision trying to push Pakistan-based analysts into the corner, Islamabad considered its options. There are some facts which we need to consider prior to even contemplating gloating over the decision.

The first issue is the media-hype created by the Pakistan military immediately after his arrest. The intention was to project Indian involvement in every terror group targeting the nation, as against the reality of "good" terror groups having gone astray.

The forced confession and regular comments by all and sundry in the military, managed to project it successfully to its internal audience. This is amply proved when witnessing the chatter on social media following the decision of the ICJ.

At the international level, it made no headway, considering Pakistan’s dubious record on the subject. However, the army compelled the polity to raise it at every forum. Surprisingly, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif never mentioned it during his address to the UN General Assembly, knowing well that it holds no water.

kulbd_052017025355.jpgKulbhushan Jadhav is under detention of the Pakistan army, not the government’s judicial system.

The second is that Kulbhushan Jadhav is under detention of the Pakistan army, not the government’s judicial system. Even a government representative may not be able to gain access and meet the individual, unless the army permits. The military court, which sentenced him to death, was conducted in secrecy, without the knowledge of the government, leaving the polity to face international pressure on the army’s actions.

The announcement was not made post the initial decision of the court, which is the norm followed by Pakistan in most cases. It normally announces terrorists have been sentenced to death, awaiting confirmation of their army chief. Jadhav’s sentence was announced only after confirmation by their army chief, surprising their own government, which never knew how to react, but had to support the army, as it had no choice.

Third, was the timing of the entire incident. It was announced within a couple of days of the meeting between Indian steel magnate Sajjan Jindal and Sharif, which the Pakistan PM himself claims was an attempt at re-igniting back-channel diplomacy.

Court martials in Pakistan, details of which are released to the press, indicates that all are only sentenced to death and in every case, the individual has confessed. This clearly implies forced confessions, the case being similar with Kulbhushan Jadhav. Once a confession is accepted by the court, it would take just a few minutes to pass judgment.

The chief would have confirmed it the same day. Hence, in all probability, it would have been conducted post the meeting, clearly blocking any hopes of re-initiating dialogue between the two nations.

The fourth issue is that the mental and physical condition of Kulbhushan Jadhav is unknown. Similarly, is lack of knowledge on whether the individual is even alive. Even external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj made this comment some time ago in Parliament.

In case the individual is harmed or not in a physical and mental state to be presented to any consul or relative, they would have always sought reasons to deny access. This was possibly the main reason why it was denied.

India has no information of even where he is lodged, despite all its efforts, both official and unofficial, confirming that all is not well. Hence, Pakistan can never permit access, if he is harmed, as it would be an international embarrassment for the country in general and their army in particular. This is in reverse to the case of Ajmal Kasab, whose entire details were regularly released to the media.

If the above is true, then Pakistan would seek every means, including outright rejection of the ICJ directive. This would be under pressure from its military. On the other hand, Sharif, a master in the game of politics and a survivor of coups and near-coups, would seek to regain the upper hand over the army and would utilise means to ensure Pakistan accepts the decision, compelling the army to open its cards and face international criticism.

For India, it is wait and watch for internal games within Pakistan to unfold. One good news is that Pakistan cannot execute him officially and would have to release the truth in the days ahead.

It may appeal, however, would at some stage need to provide proof of his well-being. The Pakistan army is cornered and would desperately be seeking a solution while we continue to demand consular access, records of which would be presented as proof of Pakistan's rejection of the ICJ ruling. Pakistan is in a bind, the answer to which would flow shortly.

Through all this debate, Jadhav remains under lock and key, even unaware of international legal battles being waged on his behalf by his country.

Also read: Pakistan army's two fatal blunders - murdering Lt Fayaz and kidnapping Jadhav - will cost it heavily


Harsha Kakar Harsha Kakar @kakar_harsha

The writer is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army and author of the book, Harsha Kakar writes.

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