Govt to table Kulbhushan ordinance in NA today

ISLAMABAD: Major opposition parties – the PML-N and the PPP – are likely to oppose an ordinance meant to allow convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to file a review appeal against his conviction despite a request by the PTI led federal government not to politicize the “national security issue”.

The government is expected to table the International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Ordinance, 2020 in the lower house of parliament on Monday [today].

The ordinance seeks to allow Jadhav – an operative of Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) – who was arrested from Balochistan in March 2016 and sentenced to death by a military court for fomenting terrorism in the country – to file an appeal against his conviction in a high court.

The government claims that it had to introduce the ordinance in view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling which in June last year asked Pakistan to give Jadhav consular access while hearing an appeal filed by India against Pakistani military court’s order.

However, the opposition describes the ordinance as an attempt to facilitate the convicted spy in a surreptitious manner and giving him an NRO – a word used in Pakistani politics to refer to a secret deal.

The government had promulgated the ordinance in May but twice it fell short of laying it in the National Assembly because of the opposition’s strong reaction.

Former foreign minister and PML-N leader Khawaja Asif on Sunday said the opposition disagrees with the ordinance and the PML-N will definitely vote against it. “We want to be on the right side of history. The government faces compulsions; we don’t have any compulsion.”

Sharing the PML-N’s stance, the acting leader of opposition in the National Assembly said the opposition will take a final decision on the ordinance on Monday [today] in a meeting before the assembly session.

Asif said Prime Minister Imran Khan had accused that former prime minister and PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif had made a secret deal with Indian steel magnate Sajjan Jindal on Kulbhushan Jadhav when Jindal came to visit Nawaz at Murree.

“Purely political announcements were made by Imran Khan before coming into power [in 2018],” Asif said, adding the PTI issued such statements without realizing their consequences.

He said in May 2017, Imran had told a political gathering at Ayub Stadium in Quetta that the execution of Indian convicted spy had been withheld after Jindal visited Pakistan and met Sharif.

He said Imran Khan had asked the joint investigation team (JIT) constituted to probe into Sharif family’s foreign assets to also trace business interests of the Sharifs in India. He had even asked Nawaz Sharif if New Delhi would wait for an ICJ decision if a Pakistani spy was arrested in India.

“Apparently, things have changed now and the government is trying hard to get opposition’s support for passing the ordinance from the National Assembly,” he said.

On Friday, Federal Minister for Law Dr Farogh Naseem rushed to the assembly hours after rejoining the federal cabinet as the law minster for the third time, urging the opposition parties to ‘avoid politics’ on Indian spy as India will gain if an ordinance in line with the ICJ verdict is not passed.

Describing the issue as “highly sensitive” and “a matter of national importance”, the law minister while showing utmost respect for the lawmakers of the PML-N and the PPP had clarified in the lower house that the promulgation of the ordinance was neither an ‘NRO’ nor an appeal.

To the questions about the consequences of opposing the government’s move in the NA, Asif said the government always has the option to legislate as it has the majority in the lower house. “If they do so then we will see it in the Senate [where the ruling alliance lacks majority],” he said.

Asif revealed that the legal team had initially advised back then that consular access should be given to the Indian spy, adding that the foreign office can also testify that an opinion was given in writing stating that Pakistan can’t deny consular access at the ICJ. However, he said, it did not happen.

He also referred to a provocative speech of a PTI lawmaker Dr Shireen Mazari in the assembly. In the speech, she had blamed the PML-N government for accepting the jurisdiction of the ICJ.

Asif said the ICJ’s jurisdiction “can’t be denied” as any nation can go to the ICJ and Pakistan has to accept its jurisdiction being a member of the United Nations.

He said the Geneva Convention is binding on Pakistan and the perception that Pakistan could come out of the UN’s Optional Protocol of 1976 – optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – was “not true” and Pakistan would have faced repercussions for doing so.

Commenting on the decision to allow Afghan exports to India via Wagah border on the Kashmir Martyrs’ Day, Asif said the government has yet to show any belligerent action taken post Kashmir annexation that could manifest its anger.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday also challenged the government to get the law passed without the support and cooperation of the opposition. He had rejected the explanation offered by the law minister in the assembly over the ordinance.

On July 23, the opposition parties staged a walkout from the assembly in protest against the government for “facilitating” the convicted Indian spy. Bilawal had maintained that the PTI government was giving an NRO to the Indian spy.

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