ISLAMABAD: The death sentence handed out to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav for "spying" was today described as "unprecedented" by the Pakistani media, with experts weighing in the diplomatic fallout of the move.
A Pakistan military court sentenced Jadhav to death after he was convicted of "espionage and sabotage activities".
Military's media wing said in a statement yesterday that the sentence was passed by a Field General Court Martial and confirmed by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Right-wing English-language newspaper 'The Nation' in its front page lead 'Death to spy spikes tensions' observed that "a military court on Monday sentenced a high-profile Indian spy to death, ratcheting up longstanding tensions between the nuclear-armed states."
The paper also quoted political and defence analyst Dr Hassan Askari that the decision to execute Jadhav would "further increase tension between the two countries". "The military has given a severe punishment which is according to Pakistani law," Askari said. "But we will have to see if Pakistan can sustain the political and diplomatic fallout."
The Nation is owned by Nawa-i-Qawt group, which is traditionally aligned with Pakistani establishment and is known for India bashing. The story was also published by other leading newspapers, mostly focusing on the sentence given to the alleged spy. The Express Tribune in the front page headline 'Self- confessed Indian spy awarded death sentence' termed the decision as "unprecedented". It reported that the decision immediately sparked a bitter diplomatic spat between the two "hostile" neighbours. It further said that Jadhav has been operating in Pakistan disguised as Hussein Mubarak Patel.
The influential Dawn newspaper termed the decision as a "rare move" . The paper said that the development comes at a time when tensions between Pakistan and India are already running high. It published a full column on what experts feel about the decision.
Some feel the reaction from India will be strong, others maintain there will be no dramatic shift in the relationship, it said. "For a long time now Pakistan has struggled to prove India's involvement in Pakistan's destabilisation. Our ambassadors have gone to various countries looking for help in that matter and showed them proof but to no avail. Now that we have made our move, which is the right thing to do, we should brace for India's retaliation," the paper quoted Lieutenant General (retired) Talat Masood as saying.
"The decision is right, it is by the law and justified in legal terms, however, we should brace ourselves as there will be reaction, on international forums and Pakistan should even be prepared for a spike in Line of Control violations," Masood said.
Political analyst Air Marshal (retired) Shahzad Chaudhry said, "I do not think our ties with India would change as a result of this decision". Hamid Mir, senior journalist at Geo News said, "First of all, Pakistan should make the evidence found against the spy public, share it with the country and also internationally."
"Secondly, why is everyone talking about an Indian reaction already? My belief is that India should be sensible and not react to the news at all. If people remember when Ajmal Kasab was sentenced, Pakistan had remained silent about the whole thing. Our prerogative was simple, if there is evidence against Kassab then he should be sentenced according to the Indian law.
"So India should be sensible, not react to the news, not try to paint Jadhav as a hero, the media should take that same tone," he said.
Senior PPP leader and former interior minister Rehman Malik said, "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." The News International headlined the spy story as 'Military court awards death sentence to Kulbhushan'.