Pakistan raises issue of disappearance of Col Habib Zahir; says Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails not provided consular access for years
ISLAMABAD: India in the first ever diplomatic contact with Pakistan after the sentencing of spy Kulbhushan Yadav on Friday demanded consular access to the RAW agent, while Pakistan raised the issue of missing former Pakistan Army officer Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Habib Zahir.
Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale called on Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Islamabad. Tehmina Janjua clearly informed the high commissioner that rhetoric in the Indian parliament was un-warranted and only added to fuelling hatred against Pakistan, which was not conducive for promoting cordial ties between the two countries in accordance with Pakistan prime minister’s vision for peace in the region.
Tehmina informed the Indian high commissioner that trial against Kulbhushan was conducted under the Pakistan Army Act 1952 and Official Secret Act of 1923. She said Kulbhushan was caught red-handed in Pakistan for his involvement in espionage, terrorist and sabotage activities in Pakistan. She said the RAW agent himself has acknowledged his involvement in subversive activities against the state of Pakistan.
The foreign secretary underscored that the Pakistanis incarcerated in Indian prisons have not been provided consular access for years, despite repeated requests and follow-up by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Bambawale said New Delhi during the meeting requested consular access to Kulbhushan for the 14th time. The Indian high commissioner claimed that there had been no response to Delhi s previous 13 requests. He added that India had also requested Pakistan for a charge sheet against Kulbhushan.
Bambawale said India doesn’t know anything regarding the disappearance of Colonel Habib Zahir. Meanwhile, the government has asked India to behave responsibly and refrain from issuing statements that will further aggravate people-to-people hostility.
“More active diplomacy is therefore needed to arrest the growing crisis in India-Pakistan relations before it becomes even more serious. There has been no response from the Indian side for a letter of assistance so far, requesting specific information and access to certain key witnesses, which was shared with the government of India on January 23, 2017,” Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said in a statement released by his office.
Sharing details about the arrest and trial of Kulbhushan, Sartaj Aziz said, “We condemn the baseless allegations from India, especially in the light of the fact that it was non-cooperation and lack of Indian response to Pakistan’s request for legal assistance due to which consular access has not been provided to Kulbhushan. May I mention in this context that India has not allowed consular access to many Pakistani prisoners for many years despite repeated requests.”
Aziz pointed out that s per law, Kulbhushan has following available options — he has the right to appeal within 40 days to an appellate court; he may lodge a mercy petition to the COAS within 60 days of the decision by the appellate court and he may also lodge a mercy petition to the President of Pakistan within 90 days after the decision of the COAS on the mercy petition.
“It should be clear from these details that Kulbhushan was tried under the law of the land in a fully transparent manner. His sentence is based on credible, specific evidence proving his involvement in espionage and terrorist activities in Pakistan,” Sartaj Aziz said. Questioning New Delhi on their complete disinterest in not allowing any Indian legal assistance to their serving naval officer, Sartaj asked, “Why Kulbhushan was using a fake identity impersonating as a Muslim? Why would an innocent man possess two passports, one with a Hindu name and another with a Muslim name? Since India has no credible explanation about why their serving naval commander was in Balochistan, it has unleashed a flimsy propaganda campaign. Inflammatory statements and rhetoric about ‘pre-meditated murder’ and ‘unrest in Balochistan’ will only result in escalation, serving no useful purpose.”
He added that Kulbhushan, who is responsible for espionage, sabotage and terrorism in Pakistan, has been tried according to the law of the land, in a fully transparent manner while preserving his rights, as per the Constitution of Pakistan. He said due process has been followed while proceeding against Kulbhushan. He said all further action in this regard shall also be taken in accordance with the law.
“All political parties are unanimous that the award of death penalty after due process and overwhelming evidence to a foreign spy is the correct decision. The whole nation is solidly united against any threat to Pakistan’s security,” Sartaj Aziz said.