THE HAGUE: An Indian man on death row in Pakistan for alleged spying committed “terrorist acts” including targeted killings and kidnappings on New Delhi’s orders “to create anarchy”, Islamabad’s lawyers told the UN’s top court on Tuesday (Feb 19).
On the second day of hearings at the International Court of Justice, Islamabad’s lawyers urged judges to dismiss India’s case to save Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav from execution, accusing New Delhi of “political theatre”.
The tense legal standoff between India and Pakistan at The Hague-based ICJ coincide with a sharp spike in tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours after a suicide bombing in restive Kashmir last week and renewed fighting on Monday.
Jadhav, 48, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court in 2017, with New Delhi dragging Islamabad to the ICJ – set up in 1946 to rule in disputes between countries – over the case.
A former navy commander, Jadhav was arrested in the restive southwestern province of Baluchistan in 2016 and in 2017 the ICJ issued an urgent order telling Pakistan to stay his execution.
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan told ICJ judges that Jadhav ran a network “to carry out despicable terrorism and suicide bombing, targeted killing, kidnapping for ransom and targeted operations to create unrest and instability in the country”.
“His unlawful activities were directed at creating anarchy in Pakistan and particularly targeted the China-Pakistan corridor,” Khan told a 15-judge bench.
But Jadhav did not act on his own, Khan added.
A confession by Jadhav obtained by Pakistani officials “speaks of India’s state policy of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan,” he said.
“Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav … entered Pakistan with a predetermined aim, on the instructions of the government of India to assist, plan and cause terrorism in Baluchistan … and other places in the country,” Khan said.
India renewed its arguments Monday around the sensitive issue of Jadhav’s arrest and death sentence, insisting he was not a spy and that he was kidnapped in Pakistan.
New Delhi on Monday told judges that Jadhav’s rights were violated during his trial and that India had no consular access to its citizen.
India’s lawyers asked judges at the ICJ, also called the World Court, to order Pakistan to free Jadhav immediately.
But on Tuesday, another Pakistani lawyer Khawar Qureshi told the court: “India’s proceedings … are purely for political theatre… and they should be dismissed.”
“India’s claim for at least acquittal, release and return is outlandish, by which it I mean, it occupies a different legal universe,” Qureshi said.
All India’s evidence “taken together, requires this court, with respect, to declare the application inadmissible”, he said.
Jadhav was accused of working for the Indian intelligence services in Baluchistan, a province bordering Afghanistan, where Islamabad has long accused India of backing separatist rebels.
After a closed trial he was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on Apr 10, 2017, on charges of “espionage, sabotage and terrorism”.
The ICJ’s decision will likely come months after this week’s hearings.
The case is being heard as fresh bloodshed in Indian-administered Kashmir sent tensions soaring between the nuclear-armed neighbours, with a suicide bombing on Thursday that killed 41 troops.
India and Pakistan routinely accuse each other of sending spies into their countries and it is not uncommon for either nation to expel diplomats accused of espionage, particularly at times of high tension.
Death sentences however have been rarely issued in recent years.