Stung by its defeat at the ICJ which stayed the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav, Pakistan was in turmoil Thursday after the Pakistan Punjab government contradicted the Foreign Office and said the country will accept the verdict of The Hague. Earlier, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria had said Pakistan does not accept ICJ’s jurisdiction in matters related to national security.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, returning home from a week-long trip to China and Hong Kong, walked into a political minefield as his government came under attack from rivals and legal eagles over the loss of face at The Hague. The government was criticised for not being adequately prepared and for making improper selection of lawyers to defend its case before the ICJ.
There was no official response from Pakistan’s powerful military whose ties with the civilian government have been strained ever since the Dawn Leaks probe.
Sources in New Delhi said it remains to be seen whether the civilian government led by Sharif is able to influence the Pakistan Army to cede to the Indian request of consular access to Jadhav.
Contradicting the Foreign Office, Pakistan Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said Islamabad will accept the decision of the ICJ.
Considered a close confidant of the Sharif brothers, Sanaullah told reporters: “We will accept the decision of the ICJ on Kulbhushan. Although Kulbhushan’s case does not fall in the jurisdiction of the ICJ, Pakistan accepts its decision.”
Geo News, one of the leading TV channels of the country, reported that Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on Foreign Affairs to the Pakistan Prime Minister, said the stay by the ICJ was “not something extraordinary”. Aziz said it was wrong to suggest that the selection of counsel was not appropriate.
But that offered little consolation. The Dawn reported that the ICJ decision had caused “shock and disappointment” in Pakistan.
Moreover, there was anger that top cabinet leaders and four chief ministers were overseas while the matter was being argued at the ICJ.
Retired Justice Shaiq Usmani told DawnNews: “It’s Pakistan’s mistake to have appeared there. They should not have attended. They have shot themselves in the foot. Until the ICJ gives it verdict, the case will go on in Pakistan. But he (Jadhav) cannot be executed until the stay order is there. The proceedings will continue here.”
London-based barrister Rashid Aslam said Pakistan was ill-prepared and did not utilise the 90 minutes it had to make its argument.
“Pakistan had 90 minutes of argument time but we wasted 40 minutes,” Aslam said. “I was surprised why we finished our arguments in such little time. I think Khawar Qureshi didn’t consume all the time that was afforded to him,” Dawn quoted Aslam.
“It is very clear, Article 5 B of the Vienna Convention, that if a civilian is caught he is subject to human rights law. But if it is a spy, then human rights are forfeited. So I don’t think we presented the case quite well… Pakistan had the right to set up a judge there but we didn’t do that. I think Pakistan was grossly unprepared. It might be that we did not have enough time,” he said.
Former Attorney General Irfan Qadir told Dawn: “I am shocked why Pakistan went there and presented their position and gave it in such a rush. The lawyers handling these matters had no experience. The arguments had no weight. They should have been presented in a rational manner… Pakistan’s jurisprudence has been ruined because of this.”
Senior PPP leader Sherry Rehman said, “We based our case on jurisdiction and it proved weak. More arguments should have been made regarding espionage.”
Shireen Mazari of Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf attacked Sharif: “Indian industrialist Sajjan Jindal’s secret meeting with Sharif in Murree (a hill resort near Islamabad) paid off. It was the outcome of post-Jindal visit. The game of Sharifs-India was on. We could have withdrawn our consent to automatic acceptance of ICJ jurisdiction.”
“We did not explain our appeal and review system to show there was no urgency — we simply said Kulbhushan would be executed in August 2017. We did not prepare our case at all once. We decided to go before ICJ, so we lost on each point raised by India including urgency of matter,” she said.
— (with PTI from Islamabad)