ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI, Dec. 26: Twenty-two months after Pakistan claimed to have apprehended Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav for spying, a charge denied by India, Jadhav finally met his wife Chetankul and mother Avanti across a glass wall at the Pakistan foreign office.
This was Jadhav's first contact with his family or any Indian/s after he was shown to be held in Pakistan and sentenced to death by a secret military court where no outside entity could verify the evidence against him or the effectiveness of any legal representation provided to him. Pakistan was barred by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) earlier this year from carrying out the death sentence against the former Navy officer.
A day earlier, Pakistan foreign minister Khawaja Asif said during a TV talk show that India had been given consular access to Jadhav, describing it as a "concession".
'Didn't want any weakness in case in ICJ'
Indicating that Pakistan's actions may have something to do with the need to appear fair before the ICJ rather than humanitarian considerations alone, Pakistani foreign minister Khawaja Asif said, "Jadhav's case is sub judice in the International Court of Justice and we were advised to allow the meeting. We didn't want any weakness in our case in the ICJ over the meeting."
Jadhav, who was sentenced on alleged charges of terrorism, spoke to his wife and mother through intercom, under the gaze of India's deputy high commissioner J P Singh who was allowed to accompany the two. According to the Pakistan foreign office, however, the Indian diplomat was not privy to the conversation.
Singh was not allowed to either speak to Jadhav or listen in on the conversation, placed as he was in a separate cubicle behind the women.
Jadhav, who was not allowed to make any physical contact with his wife and mother or even share the same room, looked pale and gaunt in some of the photographs released by the Pakistan foreign office.
The MEA did not confirm or deny television reports that there might have been injury marks on the back of his neck.
Pakistan also released a medical report of Jadhav by a German doctor of a Dubaibased hospital which said he was in "an excellent healthy condition (sic)". It also said Jadhav's BMI (body mass index) was ideal for his height. The date on the report was handwritten and it was not revealed where the examination took place.
While Pakistan claimed that the meeting was the result of "humanitarian" considerations, it was evident that there was a painstaking effort by it to play the optics and use the occasion to project itself as a victim of terrorism sponsored by India. It repeatedly declared December 25 was chosen for the meeting as it was the birth anniversary of Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
At a briefing held shortly after the meeting, which lasted for 40 minutes, Pakistan spokesperson Muhammad Faisal said Islamabad wanted Jadhav's wife and mother to speak to the media, including Indian journalists, in the "spirit that Pakistan had nothing to hide".
"However, the Indian side requested that they wanted to avoid media interaction," he said. He added that this wasn't Jadhav's last meeting with his family members.
Earlier, Avanti and Chetankul arrived from India at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport and made a stop at the Indian high commission before leaving for the meeting at the nearby foreign office building amid tight security arrangements. They left Pakistan by a 6.30pm flight, hours after the meeting.
There was heavy security with some sources saying there were snipers on rooftops along the way as an extraordinary measure. All roads leading to the foreign office were closed for traffic and walkthrough gates were installed outside the ministry of foreign affairs.
Faisal said Jadhav's family members underwent a security check before being taken to the room for the meeting. Local media reported that Jadhav's mother thanked the Pakistani foreign office for allowing them to meet him.
In a video message, recorded earlier, Jadhav thanked Pakistan's government for arranging the meeting with his family. "Thankful to the government of Pakistan for this kindness," he said. Just how recently the message was recorded is not clear.
Faisal shared a photograph on Twitter of Jadhav's mother and wife sitting in the foreign office. "The mother and wife of Commander Jadhav sitting comfortably in the ministry of foreign affairs Pakistan. We honour our commitments," he tweeted. TOI
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