The Pakistan army on Monday sentenced alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadav to death on espionage charges, evoking strong response from India which criticised the secrecy in which the trial was conducted.

Jadav, an ex-Indian navy officer, was arrested in March 2016 in Balochistan. When he was arrested, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations said Jadav was taken into custody during a “counter-intelligence” operations.

The development was the top story on many of Pakistan’s newspapers and websites, which argued that the army’s move could heighten tensions with India. Some also predicted a diplomatic offensive by India to save its former Naval officer from the gallows.

An edit, on the Daily Times, recalled India’s statement after the sentencing, which said the execution would be akin to “premeditated murder”.

The Daily Times said:

“New Delhi will certainly ratchet up pressure to prevent any harm to Jadhav. It has a voice in the world that is heard – even if it may be on wrong side of the fence. Through strategic communication offensive, New Delhi will not only bring pressure upon Pakistan but also sully its image across the globe in whatever way it can.” 

The newspaper also adviced Pakistan to be cautious in dealing with the Indian diplomatic offensive.

“Countering the Indian communication’s offensive will represent a formidable challenge for a country, which is good in reaction but tardy in proactive thinking. We are in for another round of vicious acrimony with India.” 

The Express Tribune ran the death sentence news prominently on its front page but avoided any commentary. It chose to highlight the fact that Jadav had confessed to his crimes and how Pakistan looked at the case as a proof for India’s consistent attempts to meddle with its affairs in Balochistan.

“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.” 

Dawn quoted the head of the Pakistani armed forces public relations arm, Asim Bijwa, as saying that the arrest and trial of Jadhav was a big achievement for Pakistan.

“His goal was to disrupt development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Gwadar port as a special target,” Bajwa had said, adding, “This is nothing short of state-sponsored terrorism... There can be no clearer evidence of Indian interference in Pakistan.”  

Dawn published reactions from the army and the political class to the sentencing. It quoted the Opposition Pakistan Peoples Party’s assertion that as a sovereign state, Pakistan had the right to implement its laws and act independently.

“We are a sovereign state and have a law that governs us. If the law has found Jadhav guilty then we have the right to sentence him to death and the sentence should be carried out.

We should not back down to any pressure, Indian or international and make sure that the sentence is carried out.

Those who are apprehensive about the move are forgetting that Modi openly admitted that India had a hand in breaking up Pakistan into two parts.”