The Imran Khan government in Pakistan is facing an uproar for facilitating legal remedies for alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, with the opposition parties slamming it for bringing in a "National Reconciliation Ordinance".
The session of the National Assembly saw a heated debate on the matter after Pakistan People Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari cited out quorum to prevent the government from laying down an ordinance pertaining to granting foreign citizens an opportunity to file a review appeal.
The Opposition blamed the government for trying to get a rubber stamp from the parliament on what it called "facilitating a terrorist, who had confessed to his role in promoting unrest and terrorism in Pakistan".
"A terrorist who has confessed to bring involved in terrorism in our country, against whom we have completed legal proceedings – what has happened now that we are formally legislating to facilitate him?" asked Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif.
"When we (PML-N) were in the government, Kulbhushan was a slur used against us. It was said that Nawaz Sharif and PML-N were appeasing India. Who is appeasing India today?"
Lashing out at the Imran Khan government, Asif sought to remind them of the "taunts" the PML-N government faced from the then opposition party of Imran Khan.
"We were taunted, now this government and this Prime Minister must tell us why he is stooping so low in front of India?" he said.
In its response, the government contended that the PML-N government should never have gone to the International Court of Justice in the first place.
"From the first day, we had said that it was wrong of the then government to go to the ICJ and it was not just our party's stance, it was the PPP's as well," said Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari.
"If one country does not accept the ICJ's jurisdiction, the case is not heard," she added.
While the cross-accusations over Jadhav's verdict review kept the parliament session heated, the Foreign Office defended the move of the government, asserting that the decision was pertinent to implement the verdict of the ICJ.
"Necessary steps have been taken in this regard, including provision of unimpeded and uninterrupted consular access to India. India has, however, been using various pretexts to hinder the process for review and reconsideration," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said.
Pakistan maintains that it has been asked by the ICJ to review and reconsider the conviction and sentence of Jadhav, adding that Islamabad promulgated the ordinance, under which he and India were invited to file review proceedings before the Islamabad High Court.
"Neither has done so till date. Accordingly, to comply with the directive of the ICJ, the Federation has filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court for appointment of a lawyer for Commander Jadhav, so that the review proceedings can be initiated," said Pakistan Foreign office spokesperson.
Jadhav was arrested in March 2016 by the Pakistani intelligence agencies in what they claim as an "Intelligence Based Operation". Jadhav's video later came out in which he is seen confessing to have been working for India's RAW and involved in espionage and terrorism in Pakistan.
Jadhav was given a death sentence by a Pakistani military court. He later filed a mercy petition, which is pending before the Pakistan Army chief.
India took the case up to the ICJ, which halted the death sentence of Jadhav and asked Pakistan to provide consular access as well as ensure effective review and reconsideration of his sentence.
Pakistan, in line with the ICJ ruling, provided India consular access to Jadhav twice – first on September 2, 2019 and then on July 16. Islamabad also offered third consular access to India but, according to the Foreign Office, New Delhi has yet to respond to Islamabad's "goodwill gesture".
In order to ensure effective review and reconsideration of the case, the government on May 20 promulgated an ordinance. It also moved the Islamabad High Court recently with a request to appoint a lawyer for Jadhav after both he and the Indian government opted not to avail the legal remedy..