Pakistan says will hang ‘spy’ Kulbhushan Jadhav, India calls sentencing pre-meditated murder
Pakistan said on Monday a military court has sentenced to death Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav for allegedly spying and stoking violence in Balochistan, drawing an angry response from New Delhi which said it will be a “premeditated murder” if carried out.
India summoned the Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit and handed over a demarche describing the court proceedings as “farcical” and also put on hold the release of several Pakistani prisoners, scheduled for Wednesday.
Pakistan had hanged an Indian, Sheikh Shamim, on charges of spying in 1999 and had sentenced others to death over the same charge. Though several suspected Pakistani spies have been arrested in India over the years, none had been sentenced to death.
Jadhav was arrested in March last year in Balochistan and accused of being a Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) agent who was fuelling the Baloch separatist movement and attempting to sabotage the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India denies the charges.
A statement by the Pakistani military’s publicity wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said Jadhav was declared guilty of waging war against the country.
“The spy was tried through field general court martial under the Pakistan army act and awarded the death sentence. Today chief of army staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa confirmed his death sentence awarded by FGCM,” the ISPR said.
“He confessed before a magistrate and the court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organise espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of law enforcement agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi.”
Relations between the neighbours are at their lowest in several years following a string of militant attacks on defence installations in India, which New Delhi blames on Pakistan-based groups.
Shorty after the Pakistani army statement, Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar summoned Basit – whose successor was incidentally named on Monday – and handed over the demarche.
“If this sentence (is) against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder,” the demarche said.
“The proceedings that have led to the sentence against Jadhav are farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It is significant that our high commission was not even informed that Jadhav was being brought to trial.”
Global human rights watchdog Amnesty International also the opposed the death sentence.
“Under Pakistan’s military courts, no information about charges or evidence against suspects is made public,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Pakistan, however, defended the sentence.
“You can’t sponsor terrorism and then summon an ambassador to protest over the sentencing of terrorists. Nothing matters more than national security,” Basit said in New Delhi.
In Islamabad, defence minister Khawaja Asif said the death sentence should serve as a warning to those engaged in terrorism in Pakistan.
“Those plotting against Pakistan will not be spared,” Asif told Geo News.
“He came with the approval of the Indian government…There is no doubt that India is fuelling terrorism in Pakistan.”
Last December, Pakistan’s foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz told the upper house of Parliament that the “dossier on Jadhav contained mere statements” and didn’t have any conclusive evidence. Hours later, Pakistan denied the statement.
Pakistan army had also released a “confessional video” of Jadhav who is purportedly heard saying that he was serving the Indian navy. In the video, Jadhav allegedly says he arrived in Iran in 2003 and started a small business in Chahbahar.
Islamabad also repeatedly refused India’s request for access to Jadhav, who allegedly held an Iranian residency permit and a passport in the name of Hussain Mubarak Patel. The place of birth given in this passport was apparently Sangli, Maharashtra.
Pakistan has repeatedly accused India of fomenting unrest in Balochistan, the country’s largest province, but it has never offered any evidence to back up its claims. India last year launched a new offensive by highlighting Pakistan’s alleged human rights abuses in Balochistan.
In 2013, Indian national Sarabjit Singh, who was sentenced to death for spying in Pakistan, was killed in jail after being attacked by fellow inmates. Singh was on death row for 16 years.
Months later, a Pakistani prisoner was killed by inmates in the Jammu jail.
Another Indian national Ravindra Kaushik, also convicted of spying, died in jail in 2001.
In between, Pakistan pardoned and released another convicted Indian ‘spy’ Kashmir Singh who spent 35 years in prison after being sentenced to death.
However, previous cases have largely gone through civilian courts unlike Jadhav.
With agency inputs