Attorney general Ashtar Ausaf Ali will represent Pakistan in Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) following widespread calls for a change in the country’s legal team after the tribunal stayed the former Indian Navy officer’s execution.
After the ICJ ordered Pakistan to stay Jadhav’s execution on Thursday, opposition parties criticised the government’s handling of the case at The Hague-based court and demanded a change in the country’s legal team.
Ali told The News daily that he would personally represent Pakistan at the ICJ when it takes up Jadhav’s case.
The ICJ is expected to take up written submissions from India and Pakistan when it begins hearings in Jadhav’s case. No date has been announced by the UN’s highest legal body for the next hearing.
The performance of Khawar Qureshi, the London-based lawyer who was Pakistan’s lead counsel at the ICJ, has been criticised by legal experts and opposition parties.
However, Ali said Pakistan’s defence against India’s case was “prepared by the government in consultation with all stakeholders, including the military establishment”.
Qureshi has represented Pakistan in international arbitrations in the past and was cleared by the army and intelligence agencies to fight this highly sensitive case, he said. Qureshi was paid £50,000, he added.
Harish Salve, India’s lead counsel, charged only one rupee for taking up Jadhav’s case.
Ali also described speculation about the Pakistan government’s declaration on the ICJ’s jurisdiction, made on March 29 this year, as “misplaced and not factual”.
“The correct position is that Pakistan had signed off to an unconditional declaration to agree to the jurisdiction of the ICJ way back in September 1960. In March 2017, we made a declaration of exceptions, reservations and conditions,” he said.
The original declaration of 1960 was without reservations and exceptions. Before March 2017, Pakistan had signed up for “an ipso facto compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ”, he said.
In the declaration made in March, Pakistan told the ICJ it would not accept the court’s jurisdiction in cases involving national security.
Ali said there was no “sinister motive” behind the new declaration. In March, he said, Pakistan created firewalls, including one relating to national security, for the first time.
In Jadhav’s case, the ICJ is not looking at this aspect of the matter. “They are looking at the Vienna Convention and the optional protocol to the convention. India and Pakistan both are signatories to this. The optional protocol invests the ICJ with powers and jurisdiction to decide disputes between member states,” Ali said.
India successfully argued at the ICJ this week that Pakistan had violated Jadhav’s rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by repeatedly denying consular access to him since his arrest in March last year.