Most media publications in Pakistan have prominently featured reports on the death sentence awarded to former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav for alleged espionage, and the subsequent condemnation by New Delhi.
A release by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations stated that the field general court martial had sent Jadhav to the gallows for “espionage and sabotage activities”. The move has dealt a big blow to the already frayed ties between the two countries, bringing even half-hearted back-channel efforts to normalise the situation to a screeching halt.
While the Indian media decried what they termed was a “kangaroo court verdict”, news portals in the neighbouring country lent a lot of space to protestations from New Delhi — especially external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s description of the death sentence as “premeditated murder”.
An article in The Nation, titled ‘Death to spy spikes tension’, echoed Pakistan’s official line of Jadhav being a “high-profile Indian spy”.
“Jadhav confessed before a magistrate... that he was tasked by the Indian intelligence agency to plan, coordinate and organise espionage and sabotage activities aimed at destabilising and waging war against Pakistan...” it said.
The headline of another article in the Daily Times, authored by strategic affairs editor Imtiaz Gul, simply read: ‘Be ready for more acrimony from India’.
Gul’s article predicted that India was certain to put pressure on Pakistan to protect Jadhav. “New Delhi has a voice in the world that is heard - even if it may be on the wrong side of the fence. Through strategic communication offensive, New Delhi will not only bring pressure upon Pakistan but also try sullying its image in whatever way it can,” it said.
A reaction copy in The Dawn cited experts as saying that the move to hang Jadhav was “the right thing to do”.
“For a long time now, Pakistan has struggled to prove India’s involvement in Pakistan’s destabilisation. Our ambassadors have gone to various countries looking for help in that matter — even showing proof — but to no avail. Now that we have made our move, which is the right thing to do, we should brace for India’s retaliation,” lieutenant general (retired) Talat Masood said in the article.
It also lay emphasis on Pakistan defence minister Khawaja Asif’s statement that the death penalty should “serve as a warning to those plotting against the country”.
“If India takes the matter up internationally, Pakistan will defend its decision. Kulbhushan’s sentence is a warning for anyone with anti-Pakistan sentiments. The justice system will come down with full force on people working to sabotage Pakistan,” Asif told Geo News.
Soon after the sentencing, India summoned the Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit and handed over a demarche describing the court proceedings as “farcical”. It also put the release of several Pakistani prisoners, scheduled for Wednesday, on hold.