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Govt Defends Bill Allowing Right Of Review To Convicted Indian Spy

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The government said on Friday it has pushed a person-specific bill related to an Indian spy through the national legislature to comply with a verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that had asked the country to grant him consular access and right of review.

Former Indian Naval Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested in 2016 in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan and convicted of espionage and sabotage by a Pakistani military court a year later.

India took the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which ordered a stay on Jadhav’s execution in 2019, as well as consular access for India. Pakistan was also ordered to conduct an “effective review” of the death penalty.

“We, as a responsible democratic state, have passed the legislation [through the National Assembly] to comply with the court’s verdict,” Maleeka Ali Bokhari, parliamentary secretary for law and justice, said.

“We are not releasing the Indian spy,” she continued. “Instead, we are just giving him the right of review and consular access as a responsible state.”

The International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) Bill, 2020, passed by the National Assembly on Thursday says if a foreign national was aggrieved in terms of the rights available in the Vienna Convention, he may file a petition before a High Court for “review and re-consideration” either himself or through his authorized representative, or through a consular officer of a mission of his country.

The bill says such a review petition could also be filed against “an order of conviction or sentence of a Military Court operating under the Pakistan Army Act, 1952.”

The Jadhav bill will become law after it is endorsed by the Senate and gets the president’s approval. The petition for review and reconsideration may be filed within 60 days after the law takes effect.

Bokhari said the ICJ had asked Pakistan through its verdict to make effective legislation to provide the right of review to the Indian spy, adding that the government did not want to provide India an opportunity to take Pakistan into contempt proceedings at the ICJ by not passing the law.

“Pakistan is bound to follow its international obligations, and we are doing it as a robust, responsible and democratic state,” she added.

The country’s opposition parties have objected to the passage of the bill, saying the government had “bulldozed” the parliamentary norms and procedures. “This is a sensitive matter and the government should have taken the opposition on board before bringing this bill into the National Assembly for vote,” Mohammad Zubair, a former governor of Sindh province and senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, said.

He said the government should have explained to the opposition about the importance and need of the legislation since this was going to have “far reaching consequences” for the country: “We have protested against the irresponsible behavior of the government.”

Sehar Kamran, a senior leader from the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, echoed the same sentiment. “The opposition lawmakers should have been given time to point out loopholes in the legislation and asked to give their valuable input,” she said. “We aren’t living under a dictatorship. What was the urgency? The PPP has never done politics over issues of national interest, and we can’t figure out as to why the government failed to take us into confidence over such a sensitive issue.”

The parliamentary secretary, however, rebuffed the opposition’s objection over the legislation, saying: “The opposition is making a mountain out of a molehill. Our government is in fact trying to fix the blunders they committed during their tenure.”

Barrister Omer Malik, a legal expert on international issues, said Pakistan had accepted the ICJ’s jurisdiction by contesting the Indian spy’s case, adding there was no reason why it should not implement the court’s verdict now. “The government is bound to make a legislation to grant the right of review and review to Jadhav as per the ICJ verdict,” he said. “If Pakistan fails to follow the international obligations, it may face several international complications.”

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