Pakistan’s bluff is called on Kulbhushan Jadhav

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Farooq Ganderbali

Sartaj Aziz, a seasoned diplomat and currently foreign policy advisor to the Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appears to be going out of control. He recently revealed what the world already knew; that Pakistan had ‘insufficient evidence’ against Kulbhushan Jadhav, the so-called Indian spy presently in Pak custody. Sometime later, Sartaj Aziz tried to cover up his tracks by claiming that the Pak investigating agencies were collecting more information on Jadhav based on his interrogation and other evidences.

The fact of the matter is that Sartaj Aziz is not liked by the Pak military and tolerates him only because of his proximity to PM Sharif. His remarks on Jadhav have thus set off a chain reaction in the Pak establishment. The Pak foreign office denied remarks attributed to Aziz and said they were totally ‘incorrect’. However, digging a little deeper one sees the usual military hand in recent events.

The context in which Sartaj Aziz made remarks regarding Jadhav was a full Pak Senate Chamber meeting in the first week of December 2016. There, he reportedly said that the dossier on Jadhav contained “mere statements”. According to Geo News, Aziz added that the dossier did not have ‘conclusive evidence’ on Jadhav. If that indeed be the case then why on earth does Pakistan continue to deny India consular access to Jadhav? The only reason for this is that the entire case is a rigged one, rather as one authority on Pakistan says is ‘fake’ news.

The Pakistan dossier on Jadhav, which was handed over by Pakistan to the UN and some Western countries contains no conclusive proof but is merely a compilation of statements and assertions clearly highlighting the fact that Jadhav is an innocent man who is being framed by the Pak intelligence agencies. This is admitted by Aziz as much. While the official Pak media denied Aziz’s statement the veracity of remarks are attested to by a subsequent meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs held on 21 December 2016 during which members observed that the delay in compiling additional information on evidences against Kulbhushan Yadav is weakening Pakistan’s case internationally. According to a release issued by the Pak Senate available on their website, some members of the committee termed it a lack of ‘political will’ on part of the Pakistan government to delay submission of solid dossiers despite passage of nine months since the Jadhav’s arrest in March 2016. This Senate meeting was held under the chairmanship of Senator Nuzhat Sadiq here at the Parliament House.

The matter of Kulbhushan Yadav was raised during the meeting by Senator Farhatullah Babar and the Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz informed members that the government was in “final stages of compiling the additional information and the perceptions about lack of evidence against him are baseless. He also said that Pakistan’s stance will not be weakened as his confessions are in record.”

So Aziz denied that he had earlier said that the evidence against Jadhav was weak. Clearly, Aziz was made to eat his own words by the Pak Army. According to reports in the Pak media, Aziz is not on good terms with the military, particularly the ISI. This also indicates that Aziz could well find himself without a job soon because the new Army Chief has reportedly expressed his unhappiness over remarks by Sartaj Aziz doubting the ISI’s compilation of evidence against the alleged Indian spy.

It is worth recalling that it is this same Sartaj Aziz who in March this year admitted that Pakistan housed Taliban leaders and their families. Speaking in the US, Aziz made this candid admission to the utter horror of the ISI which has for decades denied any Pak link to the Taliban, even though the world knows fully well that the Quetta Shura of the Taliban is based in Pakistan! Again why did Aziz have to admit a known fact? This assertion too raised eyebrows in GHQ Rawalpindi.

More recently, Aziz denied that a Taliban delegation consisting of Mullah Salam Hanifi and Mullah Jan Mohammed, both former ministers in the Taliban government, and Maulvi Shahabuddin Dilawar, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had visited Pakistan for talks. This visit in October 2016 was in continuation of the secret talks initiated by the Afghan NDS with the Taliban in Doha. Aziz in fact said he was ‘not aware’ that any Taliban delegation having visited Pakistan. Diplomatic cover-up for not being informed by the military! So much for Aziz being the foreign policy advisor to the Pak Prime Minister!

Whither Sartaj Aziz? More importantly, what is the state of civil-military relations in Pakistan as the new Army chief and his team take office? After all, if the foreign policy advisor to the Prime Minister makes an assertion there must be some truth in it! To subsequently backtrack and deny the truth clearly displays the Army’s hand in the affairs of the state. The new Army and ISI chief certainly know how to keep the pressure on Nawaz Sharif and could well get him to replace Aziz with someone more sure of the facts, obviously those as stated by ISPR! In a sense, foreign policy in Pakistan is in a state of confusion that is the only conclusion one can reach from a survey of recent events.

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