Islamabad says Indian spy Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav alias Mubarak Patel has refused to lodge an appeal against his conviction in Pakistan and will try instead for a military pardon.
Pakistan has invited India to file a review against a military court's death sentence last year on Indian navy commander Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav on charges of espionage and sabotage.
“While Commander Jadhav’s mercy petition is still pending, India is invited to file review and reconsideration petition to give effect to the Judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ),” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
The convicted spy had refused to lodge an appeal against his conviction and will try instead for a military pardon, a Pakistani official earlier said.
"Commander Jadhav refused to file a petition for the review and the reconsideration for his sentence and conviction," said attorney general official Ahmad Irfan.
Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav was arrested in 2016 in Pakistan's restive southwestern province of Balochistan – a region where Islamabad has long accused New Delhi of backing separatist militants.
He was sentenced to death by a closed Pakistani military tribunal in 2017, and New Delhi later took the matter up with the International Court of Justice.
Rejecting the right to appeal
While rejecting most of the remedies sought by New Delhi, which included the annulment of Jadhav's conviction, his release and subsequent return to India, the Hague-based world court in July 2019 had ordered Islamabad to 'review' the sentence, and he was later offered the right to appeal.
"He instead preferred to follow up on his pending mercy petition", Irfan added.
He said Pakistan had written to the Indian high commission inviting it to file an appeal on Jadghav's behalf.
Following the announcement of Jadhav's arrest, Islamabad released a video of the spy in which he confessed to having been tasked to "plan, coordinate and organise espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of law enforcement agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi".
India's foreign affairs spokesman Anurag Srivastava said late on Wednesday that Jadhav "has clearly been coerced to refuse to file a review in his case". "Pakistan is only seeking to create an illusion of remedy," he added.
Indian officials maintain Jadhav retired from the navy in 2001 and was running a logistics business in Iran, where he was kidnapped and brought to Pakistan and forced to confess.
New Delhi has not provided any details of his travel and abduction in Iran to back the claims.
Fake name, real passport
Pakistan has questioned how Kulbhushan Jadhav was in possession of an authentic Indian passport issued in the fake cover name of "Hussein Mubarak Patel", which he was used to enter/exit India at least 17 times.
Indian media has also reported on at least three properties that Jadhav owned in Mumbai under the alias Mubarak Patel.
Around one month after Pakistan had announced Jadhav's arrest, a retired Pakistan army colonel, Habib Zahir went missing from Nepal.
Islamabad says the abduction was the work of “foreign intelligence agencies” – a clear reference to India’s Research and Analysis Wing (which has a strong presence in Nepal) of “kidnapping” of its ex-serviceman.
“We don’t know about that yet, but there is a possibility that he was kidnapped by Indian intelligence agencies,” Pakistan’s then defence minister, Khawaja Asif, had said in an interview with a local broadcaster.
Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Habib Zahir has been missing since April 6 from Lumbini, a Nepalese town near the Indian border soon after his arrival there.
According to his family, which also insists, Zahir was trapped by “enemy spy agencies”, a person named Mark Thompson had contacted him both via email and telephone for a job interview in Nepal, for which Zahir was also provided with an air ticket.
The last message that Zahir sent to his family from Lumbini said he had reached his destination. The Nepalese police have reportedly obtained CCTV footage showing a man meeting Zahir at Kathmandu airport on April 3.
India and Pakistan routinely accuse one another of sending spies into their countries and it is not uncommon for both nations to expel diplomats accused of espionage.
Last month, Indian police suspected a pigeon spying for Pakistan and took it into their custody to probe. Later on, they released the pigeon belonging to a Pakistani fisherman after a probe found that the bird, which had flown across the contentious border between the nuclear-armed nations, was not a spy.
New Delhi has claimed the arrest of Pakistani spy pigeons several times in the past as well.
The fractious relationship between the neighbours has worsened since New Delhi expelled two Pakistan embassy officials over spying claims in late May.
New Delhi has also accused Islamabad of torturing two Indian diplomats arrested following an alleged hit-and-run in the Pakistani capital.
Tensions were already high after India in August scrapped Muslim-majority region Kashmir's semi-autonomous status and imposed a major security clampdown.