Lahore: Pakistan's Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah on Thursday said Islamabad would accept the decision of the International Court of Justice on the Indian prisoner on death row Kulbhushan Jadhav.
His statement was in conflict with that of the foreign office which said Pakistan does not accept ICJ's jurisdiction in matters related to the national security.
"We will accept the decision of ICJ on Kulbhushan," Sanaullah told reporters at the Punjab Assembly.
"Although Kulbhushan's case does not fall under the jurisdiction of the ICJ but Pakistan accepts its decision," he said.
The minister further said Pakistan has strong evidence of Kulbhushan's involvement in espionage.
Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria had said India has been "trying to hide its real face" by taking the case of Jadhav to ICJ. "The real face of India will be exposed before the world," he told the state-run Pakistan Television.
Jadhav, 46, has confessed his crimes of sabotage, terrorism and subversion activities not only once but twice, he said. Zakaria said Pakistan has already informed the ICJ that it does not accept its jurisdiction in matters related to the national security.
According to former Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman Farogh Naseem, Pakistan should have immediately withdrawn its March 29, 2017 declaration accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ.
Instead of contesting the matter, Pakistan should have withdrawn the declaration immediately after India took Jadhav's case to the ICJ, he said. "Why did Pakistan not take the glaring and brutal human rights violations in Kashmir before the court, despite the fact that Islamabad had a strong case in this regard?"
Former Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar, an expert in international law, regretted that Pakistan had accepted ICJ jurisdiction through a declaration, which should have been withdrawn once Pakistan knew that India would invoke the ICJ's jurisdiction against it.
"Being an arbitration forum, each contesting state was allowed to nominate one person of its choice to act as an ad hoc judge at the ICJ...India did nominate one but Pakistan did not," Khokhar said, adding that Pakistan's counsel did not argue for the full allotted time either.
Eminent lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir suggested that rather than making the ICJ ruling a matter of ego, "we should sit down, join our heads and find a way out by going through the ruling thoroughly". "Who gave the opinion to deny consular access to Jadhav in the first place?" she asked.
International law expert Ahmer Bilal Soofi was of the view that Pakistan should prepare for the second phase of the case, which was "more important because it would be contested on merit and would provide Pakistan the chance to document India’s intervention inside Pakistan through Jadhav".
Islamabad could insist on cooperation from India on the investigation into Jadhav’s activities, he said. Former law minister S M Zafar said prime facie, it was a wrong decision.
"I could not understand why the ICJ issued a stay order in the Jadhav case without even understanding the case." According to him, Pakistan should change its legal strategy and concentrate more on the terrorism angle.
A senior official told The Express Tribune that India had been successful in managing the ICJ's registrar office, which has vast powers to fix cases before the court. "We were very surprised how swiftly Jadhav’s case was fixed before the ICJ," he said.
A senior official in the law ministry told the Express Tribune that Pakistan's lead lawyer Qureshi made two mistakes. "He did not nominate ad hoc judge before the hearing and he did not respond to the argument of Indian lawyer regarding the 2008 bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan on consular access," he said. The agreement says both the states will not give consular access to terrorists.
Pakistan Bar Council executive member Raheel Kamran Sheikh said it was matter of concern that success rate of Pakistan in international arbitration cases was 2 per cent while India's success rate was 60 per cent.
"We lost important cases at the international forum in the last couple of years. Likewise, we spent more than one billion rupees on lawyer’s fees in those cases," he said.
Sheikh said mishandling of Jadhav’s case was a classic example of how in the power struggle between military and political institutions, gaps in the foreign policy and national security perspectives had grown.
"And they [gaps] have grown to such an extent that if the situation is not arrested and improved immediately in the national interest by both the centres of power, irreparable damage shall be caused to the state," he said.
On the other hand, Opposition parties in Pakistan blamed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for securing 'relief' to alleged Indian spy Jadhav.
"Indian industrialist Sajjan Jandil's secret meeting with Sharif in Murree (a hill resort near Islamabad) paid off. It was outcome of post-Jindal visit. The game of Sharifs-India was on. We could have withdrawn our consent to automatic acceptance of ICJ jurisdiction," Imran Khan's Pakistan Tahreek Insaf senior leader Shireen Mazari said.
"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.
Mizari said the shocking part is that Pakistan's case was actually argued by Director General South Asia of MFA Dr Muhammad Faisal despite presence of lawyers.
But there was no official response from Pakistan’s powerful military, said a report in the Indian Express. This is significant given that Jadhav was tried by a military court.
Now the task before Sharif, who returned from a trip to China and Hong Kong on Thursday, is to figure out how to convince the military to grant India consular access to Jadhav. Ties between the civilian government and the military have been strained ever since the Dawn Leaks probe.
There is also anger in the political establishment in Pakistan that the PM and 4 cabinet ministers were abroad when the trial took place, said the report.