NEW DELHI: Islamabad struggled to firm up its stand today on India's surprise move to approach the International Court of Justice to secure the release of its national Kulbhushan Jadhav sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court. Hours after Pakistan Prime Minister's Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan was reviewing the Indian application before the world court, PM Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa also had a long meeting where, local media reports said, Kulbhushan Jadhav also figured prominently.
On an application from New Delhi, the international court in the Dutch city of The Hague on Tuesday had barred Pakistan from carrying out the execution of Indian citizen Jadhav, an ex-Naval officer who India says was abducted from Iran where he was on business. He surfaced in Baluchistan last March in the custody of Pakistani army that accused him of spying. Last month, a Pakistani military court sentenced him to death for spying. Pakistan had ignored 16 requests for consular access from India and refused to share court papers to enable India to appeal against the decision.
The stay order, valid till the Indian petition is decided, was formally announced by the world court on Wednesday. For a country that hasn't approached the court established under the United Nations Charter in 45 years, New Delhi's application had surprised many in India too.
"We are analysing the Indian petition and the ICJ's authority in this case," Mr Aziz told reporters after a seminar in Islamabad, adding that Pakistan's Foreign Office would issue a statement about its decision. According to Geo TV, the Indian move was also discussed at PM Nawaz Sharif's meeting with the Army Chief that lasted 90 minutes.
A Pakistan army spokesperson refused to comment on the court order from the coastal city of Netherlands, asserting that the government would respond at an "appropriate level" to any query from the court. But Major General Asif Ghafoor appeared to suggest that the army wasn't in a raging hurry to carry out the death sentence. "The process is continuing within the army over the decision by the (military) court" against Mr Jadhav, he said, without explaining the nature of "process".
In a tweet, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif had accused India of using Jadhav's death conviction to "divert" attention from its "state-sponsored" terrorism in Pakistan. "Kulbhushan convicted of offences against national security," Mr Asif tweeted. This was also the reason cited by Pakistan to justify refusal to grant consular access to him.
Former solicitor general Harish Salve, who is leading the Indian effort to secure Kulbhushan Jadhav's release at the international court, however, brushed aside such contentions. "I am sure these are fighting words," Mr Salve told NDTV. He expected the international court to either hold its first hearing on Monday, or announce the day when this would begin.
(With inputs from PTI)