Kulbhushan Verdict: a win-win scenario?

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By Wasib Imdad

Late Wednesday evening was much hyped when all eyes were glued to TV sets as ICJ was set to announce the all-important verdict of the Indian spy: Kulbhushan Yadav. Seconds after Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, President of the ICJ, started reading out the 42 page verdict, TV channels on both sides of the border flashed victory for themselves and defeat for the counterparts.

Much has been said and written prior to the verdict being announced on the Indian spy getting caught and the events that have unfolded after. Commander Yadhav can be easily termed on one of the many bones of contention between the two countries who at most are at loggerheads. Let’s scoop in deep to bring to surface what the verdict holds for the two countries.

The Hague based International Court of Justice rejected India’s plea of acquittal, release and return of Kulbhushan Yadav. India sought that the commander be released and his punishment of death granted to him by a Pakistani military court in 2017 be annulled. Meanwhile Pakistan was said to have violated the Article 36 of the Vienna convention of the Consular Relations (VCCR) by not granting consular access to Kulbhushan Yadav, thus immediately he shall be informed of his rights to consular access. It states in black and white that it is not the ‘sentence and conviction’ that is the breach but the act of not granting him consular access which is. To this the adhoc judge Tassaduq Jillani penned a dissenting note that the Vienna Convention’s Article 36 was never to be applied upon ‘Spies’ and the thought givers would have never thought once it would be used in such an adverse manner.

The UN court, announcing its ruling 16-1, also ruled that Pakistan at its convenience and the means of its choice shall review its capital punishment given to the Indian Naval commander. This phrase of ‘means of its choice’ also reiterates the ICJ’s belief over Pakistan’s judicial system which is well over its auto correct mode. Not ruling to hand over Kulbhushan to India, not denouncing Pakistan’s stance of India’s involvement in trouble across its land, not telling Pakistan that the person is completely innocent have well vindicated Pakistan’s claims which is no doubt a great respite to us from the top court. As claimed by many friends across the border, the ICJ has not annulled the military court’s conviction and sentence awarded to Yadav but has simply asked the country to give it another spell check. In compliance to this Yadav would be allowed to file a review petition and things would roll out further as per the law.

Usually it has been observed that in cases that go to the ICJ, extreme reliefs are sought by both the disagreeing parties, in order to receive a ruling that is somewhat less of the demands displayed but covertly actually aimed for. ICJ itself also refrains from giving extreme verdicts of any sort and presents a win win scenario usually, for both having some points to cherish upon.

Its findings, as Prime Minister Imran Khan stated is a great victory for Pakistan and as said by Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his post-verdict presser, has proved Pakistan’s take held through years. It is indeed a matter of great concern to the international community that a serving Indian Naval officer was arrested in Pakistan after travelling on an authentic Indian passport. Claiming to be the greatest democracy in the world, how one claim rubbishes the other; the diplomatic u-turns are no less than a laughing stock for the global community.

Facts however do remain facts. Our neighbors need to call spade a spade. It was the same Kulbhushan who once was not recognized by Indian government as their citizen. It was on March 3, 2016 that the RAW agent was arrested from Balochistan. 26 days later ISPR released a confessional video statement in which the Commander can be seen claiming to be from Indian Navy to which New Delhi denied any link with him. India later after losing their narrative to proofs given by Pakistan claimed that he was an Indian citizen but not in any way linked to the Indian Navy and was simply a businessman travelling for business purposes. India, to much surprise, also once claimed that his passport was fake and forged by the Pakistani authorities to which the UN court says that is was ‘authentic but with fake alias Hussain Mubarak Patel’. He also confessed to his crimes of sabotage, espionage and incidents of terrorism in front of the Judicial Magistrate and later re-confessed to have given those statements without any sort of pressure exerted upon him when Indian claims that those statements reflect the wounds inflicted. On June 22, 2017 another confessional video statement was released in which Yadav admits carrying out negative activities in Balochistan and begs for mercy to the Pakistani Army Chief. It was on December 25 2017 that the Foreign office hosted a meeting between the Indian spy and his family, a goodwill gesture which ended upon a diplomatic war of words. Kulbhushan was court martialled on April 10 of the same year to which India got a stay order once it seeked refuge under the cover of ICJ.

Pakistan has played and so far gained excellent mileage upon the Kulbhushan Card. Many may disagree that Pakistan shouldn’t have agreed to go to the International Court and should have carried out the proceedings as per the law of the land. I think that since the international politics is all about gaining mileage through shaping narratives such golden opportunities of telling the world which country is the real trouble maker shall not be let off with ease. While we are already on the FATF grey list and on the brink to get blacked the most we can manage is to leap upon such opportunities in order to cement and re affirm our image of a responsible member of the International community. By agreeing to go to the ICJ and its proceedings echoing across TV sets and social media sites across the globe we have put a stamp of Indian state terrorism over and across. Be it fake surgical strikes or shady Pulwama scenario to maneuver the electoral polls, be it the Indian war hysteria downplayed by Pakistan, be it the injured Abhinandan handed over to India as a goodwill gesture or be it the sudden burp of ‘Chowkidar Modi’, Indian claims of blaming Pakistan for every wrong turn out on their land seems to be and is scantily clad.

The writer is an Islamabad based Broadcast Journalist. He tweets as @Wasib25