The International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) stay on the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav is a “historical win” for India, Sarabjit Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur said on Thursday.
Singh was killed in a Lahore jail while on death row in 2013. Dalbir said that while watching on the live court proceedings, she could only think of how her brother would have been alive had the Indian government turned to the ICJ to plead his cause.
I had approached the Indian government on several occasions, pleading with them that they should file an appeal before the International Court if Pakistan was not paying heed to their pleas.
“I had said that to the Prime Minister, the External Affairs Minister, and every powerful parliamentarian I could get in touch with,” she told The Quint.
But all my requests fell on deaf ears. The authorities replied saying that the International Court does not accept a country’s prayer and that we, Sarabjit’s family, should approach them instead. I am a lay person; there was no way the International Court would listen to me.Dalbir Kaur, Sarabjit Singh’s sister to The Quint
Awais Sheikh, who has sought refuge in Sweden following several life-threatening attacks on him for representing Sarabjit, called The Hague’s verdict a “moral and diplomatic victory” for India. Sarabjit’s Pakistani counsel stated that New Delhi should continue to tread carefully since there is no way to stop Pakistan if it decided to proceed with Kulbhushan’s execution.
Sheikh, president of the Pakistan-India Peace Initiative and author of three books including Samjhota Express, Journey to the Land of Peace, and Sarabjit Singh: A Case of Mistaken Identity said: “The military, although in the background, is in power in Pakistan. Their decisions carry a lot of weight. If they decide to execute Kulbhushan, no one can do anything to stop them. The ICJ, in its order, has not expressly said that Pakistan cannot execute Kulbhushan”.
In my opinion, New Delhi should hold its horses, wait for Pakistan to react, and build more diplomatic pressure on them. The heart of this international legal battle, after all, is not the interim victory; it’s the safe return of the Indian national.
Sheikh added that the unanimous verdict pronounced by the ICJ, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, will create substantial diplomatic pressure on Pakistan, since Kulbhushan’s injustice is now in public view, in knowledge of the entire world. He noted how the World Court had set aside Pakistan’s contentions of jurisdiction and related arguments, upholding that the priority of the proceedings lay in Kulbhushan’s safety. Sheikh said:
This is not just a good verdict for India; it’s a victory for the world. The proceedings at The Hague will draw the international lens on Pakistan’s military courts, and how they arbitrarily announce death sentences while breaching the international codes of conduct, human rights, and other basic rights like consular access and legal representation to their prisoners. India has got what it asked for.
Dalbir, meanwhile, seconded the counsel’s opinion, saying that with the World Court’s order on Thursday, Pakistan’s lies have been bared, and that now, even the International Court has acknowledged their deceit. She added that truth had triumphed, and Pakistan, as always, had fallen flat on its face. She said:
Pakistan cannot live off lies forever. India has taught Pakistan a lesson at a world-acknowledged platform, and now, our neighbours will be compelled to pledge justice. I believe that today, each of us is thankful to the government for its fierce and unabated fight in protecting its citizen.
Sheikh, however, observed that the victory at The Hague should not be a reason for New Delhi to get complacent, and that it should study Pakistan’s moves before making its own.
He stated that there have been three instances where the United States has walked over the World Court’s rulings, and has executed the men in question. This was despite the ICJ staying the executions, either as provisional measures (like in the case of Kulbushan) or as a final verdict. Sheikh stated:
The truth is that the ICJ’s decision is not legally binding. But having said that, Pakistan, after The Hague’s verdict on Thursday, cannot isolate itself from the world, cannot dodge the international pressure this verdict will create. In that sense, the verdict is certainly binding upon Pakistan. It might compel them to adhere to the court’s order. But you have to keep in mind that military courts in Pakistan supersede the establishment.
Meanwhile, Dalbir said:
When I was watching the ICJ proceedings on Thursday, all I could think about was my brother, and how he would have been alive today, had the Indian government acknowledged my innumerable pleas and done their job right. I’d told the Indian authorities that it’s naive to trust Pakistan, that they would send his body back. And that’s exactly what they did.
Apart from Indian nationals in Pakistan, Sarabjit Singh and Kulbhushan Jadhav, another Indian citizen, Sheikh Shamim was sentenced to death by Pakistan for espionage, and executed by hanging in a Pakistani jail in 1999, almost ten years after he was arrested “red-handed” near the border. Further, Mumbai resident Hamid Ansari still languishes in a Pakistani jail after being convicted by a Pakistani military court for being an Indian spy.
India, meanwhile, has reportedly deported 250 Pakistani nationals between 2014 and 2016, and has not sentenced to death or executed a single Pakistani national for espionage. However, after India learnt of Kulbhushan’s death sentence by a Pakistani military court, it stayed the repatriation of a dozen Pakistanis in April 2017.
(Puja Changoiwala is a journalist and author of the critically-acclaimed true crime book, ‘The Front Page Murders.’ This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)