British broadcaster BBC on Thursday denied reports that it had omitted the name of former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav from its interview with Pakistan’s Finance Minister Asad Umar due to any biases. The public broadcaster said that the portion was edited out of the television version of the interview merely due to time constraints.
Jadhav is on death row in Islamabad after Pakistan charged him with spying for Indian intelligence agencies in 2016.
During an interview with Stephen Sackur for BBC programme Hardtalk, Umar spoke about several matters, including Pakistani economy, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and terrorism.
In the interview, Umar said “sponsored terrorists” received “training, funding and material from outside Pakistan” in an attempt to try and destabilise restive Balochistan and the CPEC project. When questioned about these external forces, Umar said they were “led by India, of course”.
In the radio version of this interview, Umar can then be heard saying: “Pakistan arrested a senior operative from India, his name is Kulbhushan Jadhav; he is in the custody of Pakistan and he gave details of how the Indian intervention in Balochistan and others parts of Pakistan is taking place.” This was missing from the television version, in which, Umar is only heard saying “So is there terrorist intervention in Balochistan? Absolutely yes...” after claiming that India sponsored terrorists in Balochistan.
Pakistani Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari tweeted that the omission of Jadhav was “typical bias of BBC”. Several other Pakistani Twitter users quickly followed it up with questions to the host and the broadcaster seeking an explanation.
BBC Hardtalk responded that there was a “simple technical explanation” for the omission of Jadhav’s name. “The recorded interview was too long for our broadcast slot and so had to be edited. This was done separately for radio and TV,” the broadcaster said in a tweet. “His name was omitted from the TV version. This was not an act of censorship, but clearly confusion has been caused, so we are happy to restore that short section to the TV broadcast and we’ll give the new programme an extra airing tonight as well as tomorrow morning.”
Mazari called the explanation pathetic and suggested that BBC had refrained from mentioning Jadhav because of India’s influence over the network. “As pathetic an explanation as any,” she wrote on Twitter. “BBC’s bias has always been there and then there are mega bucks to be earned from India!”
Kulbhushan Jadhav case
In March 2016, Jadhav was arrested by Pakistani officials and accused of spying for India’s Research and Analysis Wing, and aiding separatist elements in restive Balochistan. In April 2017, a Pakistani martial court sentenced him to death. India, however, maintained that he is a former Navy officer, who retired in 2002.
Soon after his arrest, Pakistan released a video that showed Jadhav allegedly confessing to his crimes. India has questioned not only the authenticity of the video but has also accused Pakistan of torturing Jadhav into confessing.
While the Pakistan Army had claimed Jadhav had been arrested in Saravan at the Iran-Pakistan border, Baloch leader Sarfaraz Bugti said he was picked up from Chaman in Balochistan. India, meanwhile, alleged he was kidnapped by Pakistani forces while in Iran on a business engagement.
After Jadhav was sentenced to death, India moved the ICJ against the verdict in May 2017. The court stayed his execution, but a final verdict is pending. The International Court of Justice is expected to hold hearings in the case from February 18 to February 21 in the Peace Palace at The Hague in the Netherlands, the seat of the court.
Last December, Jadhav’s mother and wife travelled to Islamabad to meet Jadhav. They were allowed to meet for less than an hour. This was Jadhav’s first contact with his family since his arrest.