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Mainstream, VOL LV No 17 New Delhi April 15, 2017

Rare Unanimity

Wednesday 19 April 2017, by SC

EDITORIAL

The latest episode in the progressively deteriorating relations between India and Pakistan is the one involving Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former naval officer now a businessman working out of Chabahar in Iran. The case, exposing Pakistan’s lip-service to democracy and the rule of law, has been vividly brought into focus in an editorial today in The Times of India. Captioned “Judicial Murder”, its first paragraph reads as follows:

The decision of a Pakistani military court to hand down death sentence to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, captured by Pakistani authorities last year, is nothing but a ploy to counter New Delhi’s diplomatic pressure on Islamabad for nurturing terrorism. The secretive Pakistani military court—which has also come under criticism from Pakistan’s civil society—conducted a farcical, rushed trial whose proceedings are utterly opaque, and convicted Jadhav for espionage and subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi. No details about Jadhav’s alleged criminality have been provided by Pakistani authorities. New Delhi was even denied consular access to Jadhav despite asking for it 13 times—a clear violation of Pakistan’s obligation under the Vienna Convention on consular relations.

This case also exposes the conflict between that country’s civilian administration and the military overseeing the former’s functioning. It may be recalled that only a few months ago, in December 2016, Sartaj Aziz, who operates as Pakistan’s de facto Foreign Minister, had admitted that the Jadhav case was accompanied by “insufficient evidence”; and assured that a dossier on the subject would soon be issued—that assurance is yet to be implemented. What is more, as The Indian Express disclosed today,

Ever since 2015, when Pakistan empowered military courts to try civilians for terrorism-related offences, at least 161 death sentences have been awarded—in some cases, to children—in closed-door trials. In a damning study, the International Commission for Jurists said these military courts had kept secret even basic information on “the specific charges and evidence against the convicts, as well as the judgments of [the] military courts, including the essential findings, legal reasoning, and evidence”.

This is most damning, to say the least. Unless Islamabad explains in detail as to why Jadhav should be executed, the military court’s verdict will be treated with the contempt it deserves.

Both Houses of Parliament today witnessed a rare scene: all sides denounced in unison the Pak military court’s judgement on Jadhav.

However, there is no reason as to why such desperate acts by our neighbouring state should provoke us to take the rigid stand of “no discussion” with Islamabad on the outstanding issues plaguing India-Pakistan relations. One has no hesitation in wholeheartedly endorsing former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s call, at a meeting in New Delhi yesterday, for continuous dialogue between the two states in the wake of all such developments threatening bilateral ties. He exhorted both sides not to suspend this dialgoue under any pretext whatsoever.

Meanwhile the situation in UP following Yogi Adityanath’s assumption of power in the State continues to worsen. Cow vigilantism has already caused and is causing havoc with the gau rakshaks running amok and inflicting heavy blows on communal harmony. As if this was not enough, a leader of the BJP’s youth wing has declared in Aligarh that anyone beheading West Bengal CM Mamata Banerji would get a reward of Rs 11 lakhs; her “crime”: for having ordered, according to the youth leader Yogesh Varshney, an “inhuman” lathicharge to disperse a rally raising slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ on Hanuman Jayanti in Birbhum (in the State). This declaration has caused not just consternation but outrage among the public in general and MPs in particular as was reflected today in both Houses of Parliament. Incidentally, the BJP leaders in government were also forced to denounce the delcaration even though some of them tried to wriggle out of an awkward situation by claiming that Varshney was expelled from the party sometime back.

Both incidents mirrored unanimity among members—something which has become extremely rare in Parliament at present.

April 12 S.C.