New Delhi, Dec 25: Pakistan granted Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav a Christmas concession Monday, allowing him to meet his wife and mother, but only from behind a glass barrier.
Jadhav is on death row in Pakistan, convicted by a military court there of “espionage”, a charge India vigorously denies.
Pakistan called the allowing of the meeting a “humanitarian gesture, on the birthday of the father of the nation, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah”. But the country’s foreign minister acknowledged, although not in so many words, that it was a public relations gesture, given that Jadhav’s case is currently being heard at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and Pakistan wants to make a good impression.
Pakistan allowed Jadhav to meet his family 21 months after his arrest and incarceration. The meeting took place at the Pakistan foreign office in Islamabad amid tight security, with police and paramilitary security forces, including sharpshooters, deployed in the area. This, even as hordes of Pakistani media personnel camped outside for a photo-op. Accompanying Jadhav’s wife Chetankul and his mother Avanti to the meeting was JP Singh, India’s deputy high commissioner in Islamabad.
Minutes into the meeting, Pakistan’s foreign office released a photograph on Twitter, of Jadhav’s mother and his wife seated on a sofa on their premises. They didn’t however release a photograph of Jadhav. Pakistani news outlets tweeted a picture, purportedly of the meeting. They didn’t say whether the picture is a recreation or whether it is of the actual meeting..
The family members first visited the Indian high commission in the city, after which they went to see Jadhav at the foreign office. Jadhav, meanwhile, was at the ministry before his family arrived there. The family members arrived in Pakistan’s capital around noon on a commercial flight via Dubai, and are scheduled to return to India later today.
Pakistan has refused to grant Jadhav consular access or allow his family to meet him for the longest time. It also left unacknowledged visa applications by his family members desirous of meeting him and only agreed to allow a meeting after months of international pressure.
In fact, Pakistan’s foreign minister, in an interview to Geo TV yesterday, tried to spin the fact that India’s deputy high commissioner would be at Jadhav’s meeting, as “consular access” when it was anything but that. After India refuted this claim, Pakistan backtracked and admitted it wasn’t consular access.
As well, yesterday, the foreign minister, Khawaja Asif, all but admitted that allowing Jadhav to meet his kin was a public relations gesture. He also said it was a “concession” on Pakistan’s part, leaving unsaid the fact that there was tremendous international pressure on the country.
Asif said Pakistan didn’t want India to create an impression that Jadhav was being denied access to his family, especially since his case is being heard at the international court in The Hague.
“We didn’t want any weakness in our case in the ICJ over the meeting,” said Asif.
According to Pakistan, Jadhav, 47, was arrested last year in March from Balochistan. India says he was kidnapped from Iran. Pakistan accused him of being a spy and an operative of India’s intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing. He was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April this year, following which India moved the ICJ in May. The ICJ halted his execution on India’s appeal pending its final verdict.