Pakistan’s handling of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s family was sad and pathetic

The ‘humanitarian gesture’ that Islamabad is boasting about was a disgraceful spectacle of psychological torture.

 |  6-minute read |   26-12-2017
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What was supposed to be a Christmas thaw of India-Pakistan bilateral ties, with Islamabad allowing alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to meet his family members, turned out to be a ghastly and debased show, emptied of basic human kindness. While yesterday, December 25, the images of Jadhav meeting his wife Chetankul and mother Avanti from across a glass partition flooded the internet, details of the terrible ordeal – a debased spectacle of psychological torture – that the Jadhav family went through have now surfaced.

Not only has the Union ministry of external affairs put out a statement saying the “exercise lacked credibility”, it also said that “the Pakistani side conducted the meeting in a manner which violated the letter and spirit of our understandings”. The MEA statement noted that “Pakistani press was allowed on multiple occasions to approach [Jadhav’s] family members closely, harass and hector them”, that  “cultural and religious sensibilities of the family members were disregarded” under the pretext of security precautions, and “included removal of mangal sutra, bangles and bindi, as well as a change of attire”.

The footwear worn by Jadhav’s wife Chetankul was not returned. They were not allowed to speak in Marathi, their mother tongue, and the Pakistani officials kept interrupting, pressing the intercom button, disconnecting the austere telephone link between the family members who saw each other after 22 months.  In addition, the Indian deputy high commissioner in Pakistan, JP Singh, was separated from the family members and the meeting was started without informing him.

Jadhav’s family raised serious concerns about the man’s health and well-being , asserting that he appeared to be under “considerable stress and [was] speaking in an atmosphere of coercion”. The MEA has said that Jadhav’s video released after the meeting “thanking” Pakistani government and foreign office for the “grand gesture” appears to be “tutored” and recorded before the meeting took place.

The MEA in its statement has called the meeting “intimidating” for the Jadhav family members, an “attempt to bolster a false and unsubstantiated narrative” about Jadhav’s alleged espionage activities, the purported ground on which he was arrested last year and sentenced to death in April this year. In fact, Harish Salve, the senior counsel representing India in the International Court of Justice on the issue, contesting the death penalty that Pakistan has pronounced against Jadhav in a “kangaroo court”, has raised doubts about Jadhav’s health and the mental state he’s in and has called the whole affair “very disappointing”.

What Pakistan is brandishing as a “great humanitarian gesture”, is essentially a publicity coup dressed up as kindness. In fact, turning Jadhav into a human bait to score brownie points at the ICJ and influence the global coverage of this India-Pakistan battle of wits is a fresh low in the bilateral ties, and has the imprint of Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the dreaded Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) all over it. Little wonder then that Pakistan defence analysts are terming this as an instance of Pakistan showing its heart, while the real story is one of disregarding basic human values, gross humiliation and hurting religious and familial sentiments of Jadhav’s wife and mother.

If the separation of the glass panel weren’t enough, the additional insults to Avanti and Chetankul Jadhav, robbing them of hope, calling the mother “qaatil ki maa”, hurling abuses at them, dragging them around, and the general air of gross intimidation – have permanently and more dangerously stained the Pakistan narrative in India. Despite the serial betrayals, the “good gesture” of allowing the Jadhav family to meet the incarcerated heart had sent out assurances to many, only to come to a diplomatic naught. That Pakistan’s misguided attempt to hoodwink the ICJ would stand nullified in the court of law is pretty much self-evident, as defence experts in India widely concur.

The increased tensions across the Line of Control, the frequent militant attacks in Kashmir, the killing of Indian Army personnel, the betrayal in Uri and Pathankot, Pakistan’s many duplicities and their perpetrators in the military industrial complex were in need of a bit of makeover. Precisely why, this “grand gesture” has been boasted and bragged about endlessly in Pakistani media, which is acting like the ideological state apparatus of the deadly Rawalpindi-Islamabad combine, that too on the birth anniversary of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

“Let me be very clear that Pakistan permitted the Indian request totally on humanitarian grounds in line with Islamic principles and teachings. Islam is a religion of peace… and it was a gesture of good faith and compassion,” said the Pakistani foreign office spokesperson Muhammed Faisal, adding, “It has nothing to do with consular access.” This dressing up of a spectacle of rank psychological torture as humanitarian gesture is ugly politics at worst and extreme, unwarranted paranoia on the part of the Pakistani officials, at best.

As Congress leader and a veteran in diplomatic affairs Shashi Tharoor notes, the only silver lining to this saga of personal and bilateral humiliation was the confirmation that Jadhav was still alive, and that the family got a glimpse of the condemned man 22 months since his arrest. However, even Tharoor echoed the deep dissatisfaction with which the Indian government and the media have reacted to this spectacle of diplomatic pettiness on the part of Pakistan.

Also read: How BJP won a losing battle in Gujarat


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