In Kulbhushan Jadhav case, Pakistan oppn says Imran Khan 'prostrated before Indians'

Opposition accused PM Imran Khan of "secretly trying to help Jadhav"

[File] Pakistan had facilitated a meeting of Jadhav with his mother and wife in Islamabad on December 25, 2017 | PTI [File] Pakistan had facilitated a meeting of Jadhav with his mother and wife in Islamabad on December 25, 2017 | PTI

Pakistan's opposition parties on Thursday staged a walkout from Parliament to protest against an ordinance promulgated by the government in view of the International Court of Justice's ruling in the case of Indian prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav.

The protest started in the National Assembly as the government presented the ordinance called the International Court of Justice Review and Reconsideration Ordinance 2020, under which a petition for the review of a military court's decision can be made to Islamabad High Court through an application within 60 days of its promulgation.

Jadhav, the 50-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017. India approached the ICJ against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.

The Hague-based ICJ ruled in July 2019 that Pakistan must undertake an "effective review and reconsideration" of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay. Pakistan enacted the ordinance on May 20.

During the discussion on the ordinance on Thursday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif said the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to help Jadhav. He said that the ordinance was unacceptable to the Opposition. "Who is playing with the honour of Pakistan now. Who is prostrating before them [Indians] today?" he asked.

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also alleged that the ordinance was introduced to help the Indian prisoner on death row. The government "tried to get the ordinance approved secretly to facilitate Kulbhushan Jadhav", he claimed.

After the speech, he pointed out the lack of quorum and staged a walkout along with other parties. Later, the head count was made in the house by the speaker only to find out that the quorum was incomplete and the session was deferred.

The development came a day after the Pakistan government in a unilateral move filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday, seeking appointment of a "legal representative" for Jadhav.

However, the main parties, including the government of India, were consulted ahead of the filing of the application by the Ministry of Law and Justice under the ordinance.

Pakistan authorities have “declined’’ to hand over relevant documents for Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case to the lawyer India has appointed, according to the ministry of external affairs. The MEA came out strongly against Pakistan for failing to provide a remedy, and for creating “confusion’’ over the last date of filing the petition. 

“Pakistan advised India that the relevant documents could be handed over only to an authorised Pakistani lawyer,’’ said the MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava. “India appointed a Pakistani lawyer to obtain the relevant documents. To our surprise, as advised by the Pakistani authorities, when the authorised Pakistani lawyer approached the concerned authorities, they declined to handover the documents to the lawyer.’’ 

India, according to Srivastava had tried to file a petition in the Islamabad High Court “as a last resort" in the absence of unimpeded and unhindered consular access as well as of the relevant documents.

“However, our Pakistani lawyer informed that a review petition could not be filed in the absence of power of attorney and supporting documents related to the case,’’ he said

The Jadhav case has presented a Catch-22 situation for India. Despite a major victory at the International Court of Justice of possible relief in a civil court, Jadhav’s refusal to file a petition has put India in a tough position. Especially, as Pakistan’s Ordinance does allow the Indian High Commission to file a petition, but India and Pakistan nothing is ever simple. 

Pakistan did not provide India unimpeded consular access, MEA charged. The last meeting “was scuttled by Pakistan authorities.” The consular officers were instructed not to hand over anything to Jadhav, the MEA statement claims. Hence, the officials couldn’t get the “power of attorney’’ that was needed.

-Inputs from PTI, Mandira Nayar