External Affairs

Kulbhushan Jadhav Case: India Seeks Consular Access, Copy of Chargesheet

Senior Pakistani official Sartaj Aziz on Friday listed the formal appeal options that Jadhav has under the country’s legal system.

Credit: Reuters

Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: Even as India asked for a copy of the chargesheet and order against Kulbhushan Jadhav – the former Indian naval officer sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court for espionage – and consular access to the condemned man, Pakistan’s top diplomatic official, Sartaj Aziz, insisted on Friday that his country had clinching evidence but listed out three avenues open for appeal. Significantly, he also called for “more active diplomacy” between the two countries.

On Friday afternoon, Indian high commissioner to Pakistan Gautam Bambawale met with Pakistan foreign secretary Tehmima Janjua in Islamabad to press New Delhi’s position on Jadhav.

“We have said that at the minimum, we should be allowed to meet him. This is allowed under international law, national law and as a mark of humanity. I have demanded this,” Bambawale told reporters after meeting with Janjua. This would be the 14th time that India has sought consular access to Jadhav since Pakistan announced that the former Navy officer was in their custody on March 26, 2016.

The Indian envoy has also asked for the judgment of the Field General Court Martial which pronounced a sentence of death on Jadhav. “I have also asked for the chargesheet. No one has given the charges so far,” he said.

Bambawale said that there was no response from the Pakistan foreign secretary to his demands during the meeting. A press communique issued by the Pakistan foreign office later said that Janjua did make some remarks, but they were mainly those reflected in the statement read out by Aziz, who is the foreign affairs advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The veteran Pakistani diplomat issued a long statement on Friday in which, for the first time, Islamabad has formally listed the paths open for Jadhav for clemency under the Pakistani legal system.

“As per law, Kulbushan Jhadav has following available options. He has the right to appeal within 40 days to an Appellate Court. He may lodge a mercy petition to the COAS [chief of army staff] within 60 days of the decision by the appellate court. He may lodge a mercy petition to the president of Pakistan within 90 days after the decision of COAS on the mercy petition,” he said.

New Delhi has been examining the legal recourse taken in the case of another Indian citizen, Hamid Ansari, who was also tried by a Pakistan military court. In that case, a habeas corpus petition was submitted to the Peshawar high court by Ansari’s parents. The high court had then forced the Pakistani government to disclose that Ansari had been sentenced to three years by a Pakistani military court.  

Indian officials have been regularly pointing to Aziz’s statement before the Pakistani Senate in December 2016, where he said, as per media reports, that there was insufficient evidence against Jadhav. The Pakistan foreign office had then claimed that Aziz had been misquoted. The MEA spokesperson had on Thursday also referred to the December 2016 remarks, alluding to Aziz as a “very senior dignitary’s statement before Pakistan’s parliament”.

Credible evidence?

Four months later, Aziz asserted on Friday that Jadhav’s sentence was “based on credible, specific evidence proving his involvement in espionage and terrorist activities in Pakistan”.

Aziz claimed that “no consular access” was given to India due to “non-cooperation and lack of Indian response to Pakistan’s request for legal assistance”. He also claimed that New Delhi had not given consular access to Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails.

Neither he nor other Pakistani officials have spelt out to the media what sort of legal assistance Islamabad had sought. Nor have they provided the names of Pakistani prisoners in India to whom consular access has been denied.

According to Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Pakistan had only sought “assistance” earlier this year, though she too provided no details. Aziz specified that Pakistan had handed over a letter of assistance requesting “specific information and access to key witnesses” on January 23, 2017.

Between March and December 2016, India had issued six notes verbale, which had not led to any Pakistani response, with seven more conveyed in 2017. This year, according to Indian officials, the only response of the Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs  was a reply received on March 21. By that time, Jadhav had already appeared four times before the FGCM, according to Aziz.

The veteran Pakistani diplomat gave a timeline of the trial, with the first proceedings taking place on September 21, 2016. The recording of summary of evidence took place four days later on September 24, he said.

Video ‘confession’

Kulbhushan had earlier given a video ‘confession’, which was released on March 29, in which he had claimed to be an agent of India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, and said he was tasked with fomenting terror activities in Balochistan and Karachi.

Aziz said that a separate confessional statement was recorded under section 164 of Pakistan’s Code of Criminal Procedure before a magistrate.

As per the Pakistani timeline, there were four dates on which the FGCM heard the matter – September 21, 2016, October 19, 2016, November 29, 2016 and February 12, 2017. The last date given was that of April 10, described as the day when “death sentence (was) endorsed”. It is not exactly clear from this timeline when the sentence was actually pronounced.

India had termed the trial as “farcical”, but Aziz noted that it was held in a “transparent manner” as per Pakistani law. He claimed that Jadhav was given legal counsel and also allowed to cross-question witnesses during the trial.

Yesterday, the MEA spokesperson had raised questions about the veracity of the Pakistani version by pointing out that Jadhav was apparently carrying an Indian passport. “It begs the question as to why a spy on a mission to a foreign country would carry an original passport with him,” Baglay asked on Thursday.

In his briefing in Islamabad on Friday, Aziz didn’t answer that question, but raised another query. “I would like to ask India why Kulbhushan Jadhav was using a fake identity impersonating as a Muslim? Why would an innocent man possess two passports, one with a Hindu name and another with a Muslim name?”.

His statement also listed the following “terrorist activities” for which Jadhav has apparently been found guilty.

– He sponsored and directed IEDs and grenade attacks in Gawadar and Turbat.

– Directed attacks on the radar station and civilian boats in the sea, opposite Jiwani port.

– Funded subversive secessionist and terrorist elements through hawala/hundi for subverting the Pakistani youth against the country, especially in Balochistan.

– Sponsored explosions of gas pipelines and electric pylons in Sibi and Sui areas in Balochistan.

– Sponsored IED explosions in Quetta in 2015, causing massive damage to life and property.

– Sponsored attack on Hazaras in Quetta and Shia zaireen en route to and back from Iran.

– Abetted attacks through anti-state elements against LEAs/FC and FWO in areas of Turbat, Punjgur, Gawadar, Pasni and Jiwani during 2014-15, killing and injuring many civilians and soldiers.

Indian sources pointed out that Aziz had still not given specific dates for any of the terror incidents for which Jadhav has been charged. Despite being accused of directing terror attacks, Jadhav has, however only been sentenced under the Pakistan Army Act and Officials Secrets Act for espionage.

There is likely to be an official Indian reply to Aziz’s statement, but it is still being drafted. 

After Aziz’s statement, home minister Rajnath Singh dismissed claims that Kulbhushan had got a fair trial. “That is not the case. I believe that our high commissioner has met their representative and has raised the issue of consular access. I don’t think he was given a transparent trial at all,” he said  in Kolkata.

Aziz also accused India of starting a “flimsy propaganda campaign” and asked it to exercise restraint. Referring to Sushma Swaraj’s remarks in the Indian parliament on Tuesday, he said, “Inflammatory statements and rhetoric about “pre-meditated murder” and “unrest in Balochistan”, will only result in escalation, serving no useful purpose”.

However, he seemed to keep the door open for some sort of negotiations. “More active diplomacy is therefore needed to arrest the growing crises in India-Pakistan relations before it becomes even more serious,” said Aziz.

Missing Pakistani officer

For the second consecutive day, India has again denied that it has any information about the whereabouts of a missing retired Pakistan army officer, who apparently was last contacted in Lumbini near the India-Nepal border on March 6.

On Thursday, MEA spokesperson Baglay said that he “had no information” – a line that was also repeated by Indian envoy Bambawale to Pakistani media in Islamabad on Friday.

Pakistan claims to have caught Kulbhushan Jadhav on March 3, 2016 in Balochistan after he allegedly crossed illegally from Iran. He was apparently carrying an Indian passport in the name of Hussein Mubarak Patel. Pakistan also claimed that he was still a serving officer in the Indian navy.

India has acknowledged Kulbhushan as its national, but claimed that he had already retired from the Indian navy and denied all charges that he was a RAW agent involved in fomenting trouble in Pakistan.