Media Matters

How Pakistan’s press reacted to ICJ stay on Jadhav execution: Setback, unprepared, Jindal connect?

Many newspapers questioned Islamabad’s handling of the case, while some held out hope that the final decision will go their way.

The International Court of Justice’s order on Thursday calling on Pakistan not to execute former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who Islamabad accuses of being an Indian spy, was widely seen as a success for India, which took the unusual step of internationalising the issue. Across the border, however, the response was the opposite. Pakistani newspapers carried stories of politicians, lawyers and others criticising their government for losing the preliminary battle to India – and, in some cases, for even turning up at the ICJ.

An op-ed column by Yasser Latif Hamdani in Daily Times said that Pakistan should have seen this coming, and that any arguments that Islamabad should have refused to go to the ICJ would have yielded no impact. Hamdani adds that India’s decision to go beyond bilateral approaches should open up vistas for Pakistan in the future, but adds that in this case, “the best approach would be to ensure that Kalbhushan Jhadav is accorded an appeals process that is up to the highest possible standards of justice”.

In the same pages, Reema Omer makes a point that would be familiar to many Indians as well: TV channels need to stop misleading the public based on ideas of nationalism.

“It seems we have become incapable of understanding the law objectively and instead use it project our own aspirations. In Jadhav’s case this was all the more striking as nationalist sentiment, not a dispassionate assessment of the law, was the primary driving factor behind the “expertise” on display, misleading the public on the applicable law and hence Pakistan’s chances, or lack thereof, of “winning”.”

The country’s oldest newspaper, Dawn carried a story featuring Pakistan experts questioning the handling of the case. Among many who took issue with the ICJ’s decision, the piece also quoted human rights activist Asma Jahangir who struck a different note, saying Pakistan should not make this a matter of ego.

“Who gave the opinion to deny consular access to Jadhav in the first place? ... Will it not endanger the rights of the prisoners languishing in Indian jails? Can one change international law?”

The paper also quoted Opposition politicians in Pakistan lambasting the government for its approach to the case. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf spokesperson in fact, connected the matter to another story that had emerged a few weeks ago, and demanded that the Pakistan prime minister “disclose all details of his covert meetings with Indian businessman Jindal.”

The Express Tribune also carried a piece featuring criticism of the Pakistan government’s handling of the case, but in another story it relayed comments from the government as well. The piece featured quotes from Pakistan’s Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting who said that Opposition parties should not pass judgment on issues of national security, “as it will be against the sovereignty of the country”.

One of the “must-read” stories on the website of ARY News looked into the question of whether ICJ decisions in cases like this are binding upon member countries, concluding that they are. It added, however that “it is pertinent to note here that the ICJ order on Kulbhushan Jadhav case is not the final judgment of the court.”

Lots of Pakistani politicians and analysts also responded to the case on Twitter.

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