Indian spy Kulbushan Yadav – who was caught from Balochistan last year and who has confessed to fomenting terrorism in Pakistan – has been awarded the death penalty in an unprecedented decision that immediately sparked a bitter diplomatic spat between the two hostile neighbours.
“The spy [Kulbushan Yadav] has been tried through the Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and awarded the death sentence,” the military announced on Monday through a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
“Today, the COAS [chief of army staff] Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa confirmed the death sentence awarded by [the] FGCM,” the military’s media wing added.
Identified as Kulbushan Sudhir Yadav, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) agent had been operating in Pakistan disguised as Hussein Mubarak Patel and was tried on charges of espionage and sabotage activities in Pakistan.
Yadav was arrested on March 3 last year during a counter-intelligence operation from the Mashkel area of Balochistan. A few weeks later, the army had released his recorded confessional statement in which he had admitted to have been working for RAW to stoke unrest and instability in Pakistan.
In a six-minute video shown on the national media, Yadav confessed that he had been tasked with creating unrest in Balochistan and Karachi, to which he had apparently made several visits under a fake identity since 2003. India denies Yadav was a RAW agent but admits that he was a retired naval officer.
According to the ISPR, Yadav has also confessed before a magistrate and the court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organise espionage and sabotage activities aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi.
“He was tried under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952 and Section 3 of the Official Secret Act of 1923. The FGCM found Kulbushan Sudhir Yadav guilty of all the charges. The accused was provided with a defending officer as per legal provisions,” the ISPR said.
Under the Pakistan Army Act, Yadav can file an appeal against the decision before the applet court that will be headed by a major general. If the death sentence is upheld by the applet court, he can still file a mercy petition before the army chief and the president of Pakistan.
While majority in Pakistan endorsed the death sentence, the reaction from India was swift and angry.
Just hours after the military’s announcement, Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit was summoned by the Indian foreign secretary and was issued a demarche, calling Yadav’s trial ‘farcical.’
“The proceedings that have led to the sentence against Shri Jadhav [Yadav] are farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It is significant that our High Commission was not even informed that Shri Jadhav [Yadav] was being brought to trial,” said India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
The strongly-worded demarche further said that if due course of law was not observed in the case, India would regard Yadav’s execution as murder in the first degree. “If this sentence against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder,” it said.
The Pakistani envoy, however, strongly rejected India’s protest defending the death sentence.
Basit reportedly told the Indian foreign secretary that “on the one hand you perpetrate terrorism in Pakistan and record protest against us on the other. We have not done anything wrong. A terrorist must be punished,” Basit further said.
Pakistan considered the arrest of Yadav as a living proof of Indian state agencies’ involvement in creating unrest in the country. Islamabad also submitted dossiers to the United Nations containing evidence of India’s involvement in terrorism based on Yadav’s activities.
Security officials claimed that based on the information extracted from Yadav, a major crackdown was also launched against the RAW network in Pakistan.
Pakistan and India have detained each other’s nationals on charges of espionage in the past but this is the first time in the chequered history of Indo-Pak relations that any serving military official was arrested and handed down the capital punishment for spying.
Defence analysts and former diplomats said the decision to sentence a RAW agent would send a clear message to India that Pakistan would not accept state-sponsored terrorism from the neighbouring country.
Many here believe that Yadav was working under India’s ‘offensive defence’ doctrine authored by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. The doctrine envisaged exploiting Pakistan’s internal weakness while at the same time backing militant groups to foment violence in the country.
In his confessional statement, Yadav had admitted that he was working directly under the RAW chief, further vindicating Pakistan’s stance of India’s involvement in subversive activities. The development came at a time when relations between Pakistan and India are at their lowest and is likely to further flare up the temperatures.
Anti-Pakistan elements not to be spared: Asif
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said Yadav has been awarded the death sentence according to law. “The sentencing of the Indian spy is a warning for all forces that are conspiring against Pakistan. The law will take its course if anyone poses a threat to the security and integrity of Pakistan,” he said in an interview on Monday.
He said the Indian government was behind Yadav’s activities.
Asif dismissed the Indian government’s protest, saying that “Yadav was involved in carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan and all legal formalities had been met during his trial”.
He said India has been committing premeditated murder of innocent Kashmiris for the last seven decades. He said New Delhi’s stubbornness was the biggest hindrance in improving relationship between the two countries.
“India is in the habit of leveling baseless and unfounded allegations against Pakistan. India has not fulfilled its legal and moral obligations in bringing perpetrators of the Samjhauta Express blasts and massacre of minorities, especially of Muslims, in Gujarat to justice,” he added.
Speaking to host of Express News show Kal Tak, he said Yadav has the right of one appeal in the army setup after which he can file a mercy petition.
“I think, it will take some time. I think it is a process of two to three months. He has sixty days to file an appeal against this punishment,” he added.