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In this March 29, 2016 photo, journalists look at an image of Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was arrested in March 2016, during a press confrence in Islamabad
In this March 29, 2016 photo, journalists look at an image of Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was arrested in March 2016, during a press confrence in Islamabad

A retired Indian Naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani Army court martial for alleged spying in Pakistan. Commander Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav (retd) alias Hussein Mubarak Patel was arrested on March 3, 2016, from Mashkel in Balochistan, Pakistan had claimed at the time of arrest.

An infuriated India summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and in a strongly-worded demarche said if Pakistan carried out the sentence, India would view it as a case of ‘premeditated murder’.

This will be regarded as a case of pre-mediated murder by the Indian government and its people if the sentence is carried out without observing the basic norms of justice, it said. India had countered that Jadhav was not a spy but was operating a shipping business in Iran and was not in Pakistan.

Islamabad had alleged that he was involved in espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan. A press release of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of Pakistan said on Monday, “The Chief of Pakistan Army, General Qamar Javed Bajwa has confirmed his (Jadhav’s) death sentence awarded by Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and awarded death sentence.”

The ISPR claimed that Jadhav confessed before a magistrate and the court that he was tasked by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) 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.

India’s demarche to the Pak envoy described the proceedings against Jadav as ‘farcical’ and said, “The proceedings that have led to the sentence against Shri Jadhav are farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It is significant that our High Commission was not even informed that Shri Jadhav was being brought to trial.”

Sources in the government said Jadav was a businessman who carried cargo to and fro Iranian ports, bordering Pakistan, and was subsequently kidnapped by Pakistan in March last year. Later, Pakistan released his alleged video confession and held it up as proof of India’s involvement in the Balochistan province.

In a strong warning to Pakistan over death sentence given to an alleged Indian ‘spy’ Kulbhushan Jadhav, India on Monday issued a demarche to Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit. The Ministry of External Affairs also said that India will regard the execution of Jadhav as a case of premeditated murder.

The Ministry of External Affairs also said that India will regard the execution of Jadhav as a case of premeditated murder.

Just two days after Pakistan Army awarded a death sentence to former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, there are now reports that RAW had kidnapped a retired lieutenant colonel of the neighbouring country as a counter for Kulbhushan Jadhav’s abduction.

An FIR was lodged on April 8 in this regard at the Rawat police station in Rawalpindi. Mohammed Habib Zahir,  a retired  Lt Col of the Pakistan army, went missing in Nepal, reported India Today. His son, Saad Zahir,  told the cops that after his father’s retirement from the army, he had taken up a job at Faisalabad, at the Rafhan Mills in October 2014. In the complaint filed, Saad alleged that some time back his father received a call from a person called Mark Thomas from a number in the United Kingdom. “The call was to offer a job at the consultancy firm and soon the retired  Lt Col had the offer letter in his email with a promise of fat salary and the job location was Nepal,” Saad reportedly claimed.

Saad further added that arrangements for colonel’s travel were made by the company and a ticket of business class was offered to him. The very next day he left for Oman where he had to get in touch with Javed Ansari, also a contact number of Nepal, that was given to him, Saad told cops. It also appears that Lt Col Zahir in the search of a job had posted his resume on Linkedin and various other web portals.

On April 6, senior Zahar landed in Nepal and was in constant touch with his family, and his son then alleged that from Lumbini his father made no contact with the family. On this, Jayadev Ranade, a former RAW officer said that if this has happened then the situation is quite palpable for Pakistan as a Lt Col from ISI will have very vital details.

The contact numbers given by Saad could not be reached and his father’s company email does not exist any more, say reports. The Pakistani media has said that India is doing this to take the revenge of Jadhav.

Now all eyes are on Kulbhushan Jadhav. But the alleged Indian spy who has been awarded death sentence by a military court in Pakistan will not be immediately executed, Defence Min ister Khawaja Mohammad Asif has said. Asif said three appellate forums are available under the law to Jadhav, whose family lives in Mumbai, Dawn online reported.

According to the minister, the trial of Jadhav, who Pakistan said was working for the Research and Analysis Wing and arrested in March 2016 in Balochistan, lasted three and a half months.

He faced charges of spying for India, working against Pakistan’s integrity, sponsoring terrorism and attempting to destabilise the country.

Asif said Jadhav had the right to move the Pakistan Army’s Court of Appeal against his conviction within 60 days, followed by submission of mercy pleas to the army chief and the President. Asif rejected Indian claims that Jadhav’s execution would be “pre-meditated murder”, saying due process of law was followed in the trial.

Indian home minister Rajnath Singh
Indian home minister Rajnath Singh

The minister said those involved in terrorist activities and conspiring against the security and integrity of Pakistan would not be allowed any concession, whether or not they lived in the country.

But Pakistan’s decision to sentence to death an alleged Indian spy can spark “a new, highly destabilizing round of covert actions” by both countries, a Pakistani daily warned on Wednesday.

Another newspaper wondered if the Pakistani military had been hasty in deciding to execute Kulbhushan Jadhav on charges of espionage and waging war against Islamabad.

Spy wars between India and Pakistan erupt occasionally, the Dawn said in an editorial.

“But Jadhav’s case is far beyond routine action and could herald a new, highly destabilizing round of covert actions by one country against the other’s security and intelligence apparatus,” it added.

The Dawn hoped that back-channel communications or third-party interventions would help India and Pakistan to quickly de-escalate tensions on Jadhav -and establish new rules on spycraft.

India has warned that if Jadhav was executed, it would amount to premeditated murder.

The sentencing of Jadhav, who Pakistan claims was arrested in Balochistan last year, had sent the “already troubled India-Pakistan relationship into deep uncertainty”, the Dawn said.

And despite Jadhav’s conviction, “there remain many unanswered questions”, it added.

The Daily Times wondered whether Pakistani authorities had procured all information from Jadhav “or whether they have been hasty in deciding to execute him”. Jadhav’s arrest and sentencing “is a reminder that the deadly proxy wars these two neighbours like to engage in are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

“It is high time both sides to an end to such manoeuvrings and draw up a new out-line to work on the prospect of establishing peaceful relations.”

Pakistani routinely accuses India of fomenting trouble in Balochistan and Karachi. New Delhi has for years accused Islamabad of funding and supporting terrorist groups in India, including in Jammu and Kashmir.