Pakistan's Opposition parties on Thursday staged a walkout from Parliament to protest against an ordinance promulgated by the government in view of the International Court of Justice's ruling in the case of Indian prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav.
The protest started in the National Assembly as the government presented the ordinance called the International Court of Justice Review and Reconsideration Ordinance 2020 under which a petition for the review of a military court's decision can be made to Islamabad High Court through an application within 60 days of its promulgation. Jadhav, the 50-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017. India approached the ICJ against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.
The Hague-based ICJ ruled in July 2019 that Pakistan must undertake an "effective review and reconsideration" of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay. Pakistan enacted the ordinance on May 20.
During the discussion on the ordinance on Thursday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif said the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to help Jadhav. He said that the ordinance was unacceptable to the Opposition. "Who is playing with the honour of Pakistan now. Who is prostrating before them (Indians) today?" he asked.
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also alleged that the ordinance was introduced to help the Indian prisoner on death row. The government "tried to get the ordinance approved secretly to facilitate Kulbhushan Jadhav, he claimed.
After the speech, he pointed out the lack of quorum and staged a walkout along with other parties. Later, the head count was made in the house by the Speaker only to find out that the quorum was incomplete and the session was deferred.
The development came a day after the Pakistan government in a unilateral move filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday, seeking appointment of a "legal representative" for Jadhav. However, the main parties, including the government of India, were consulted ahead of the filing of the application by the Ministry of Law and Justice under the ordinance.
In New Delhi, External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Thursday said Pakistan has once again exposed its "farcical" approach by denying available legal remedies to Jadhav against his death sentence which is also in contravention of the ICJ verdict, and asserted that it will explore further options in the case. Srivastava said Pakistan has blocked all the avenues for an effective remedy available to India in the case, while noting that New Delhi has so far requested consular access to Jadhav for 12 times over the past one year.
"The whole exercise of not providing documents related to the case even after repeated requests, not providing an unimpeded consular access and some reported unilateral action of approaching the High Court on part of Pakistan again exposes the farcical nature of Pakistan's approach," he said. The MEA spokesperson said Pakistan is not only in violation of the judgment of ICJ, but also of its own Ordinance.
"Pakistan has completely failed to provide the remedy as directed by the ICJ and India reserves its position in the matter, including its rights to avail of further remedies," Srivastava added. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui, however, claimed that the necessary steps have been taken to implement the verdict of the ICJ.
"Accordingly, to comply with the directive of the ICJ, the Federation has filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court for appointment of a lawyer for Commander Jadhav, so that review proceedings can be initiated, she said on Thursday. Pakistan last week provided second consular access to Jadhav, but the Indian government said the access was "neither meaningful nor credible," and the death row prisoner appeared visibly under stress.