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When denial becomes mythomania
  • Kulbhushan Jadhav
    Kulbhushan Jadhav
There are many ways to define or describe a delusional state. One of the prettiest, it seems, is to call it: “big diplomatic victory”. This definition has been coined and used so often in the past year that is become a classic in its genre. The recognised master of this art, the art of turning a de facto defeat into a “big diplomatic victory”, is the DG ISPR, for the european audience not familiar with it, the official spokeperson of Pakistan Army. Ghafoor, who tweets relentelessy day and night on any issue, whether foreign policy, economy, internal security, cricket, journalists or religion, gives always the tune, the official view of the 'democratically elected” government lead by the selected (pardon, elected) Prime Minister Imran Khan. Why the spokeperson of the Army should speak for a civilian government? These kind of questions are not to be asked in the Naya (new) Pakistan. 'Correcting' facts and giving an 'official' view of things is not a new or an unusual thing, especially in de facto military regimes. What is new, and starts to show in a worrysome way every day a bit more, is taking the State propaganda to a stage that could easily be equated to 'mythomania'. It applies, for example, to the USA visit of Imran Khan. “The Kaaptan” is back home and declares he feels like “he won a world cup”. For a visit in which he has not been welcomed with any official protocol or cerimony, not sat in high profile discussion meetings and, moreover, did not bring home anything but exhortations to “do more” to stop terrorism. No deals have been signed, no contracts, nothing. Just a big show in the Oval staged by two comedians: Imran and Donald Trumps. So, Pakistan, due also to the blackout and censorship of media, believes its premier was the toast of the town in Washington and Islamabad is now on stage amongst the brightest stars of the international diplomacy. But even this, in a certain way, is fine. Propaganda is propaganda, and dictatorships flourish on lies, distortions of truth and censorship. But in this case things might have gone a bit too far and there are chances that the Pakistani establishment might have started believing its own lies. A case in point is its reaction to the July 17 judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on India’s application, filed against Pakistan, for violation of the Vienna Convention on consular relations in the case of an Indian national, Kulbhushan Jadhav. Here is a short recap of the story for the european audience: Pakistan declared in March 2017 that Jadhav, an ex-Indian Navy officer, was arrested by its Army from Balochistan. He was declared an Indian spy, charged with carrying out terror attacks in Pakistan. Within a couple of months, one of the country’s controversial military courts summarily sentenced Jadhav to death. Prior to the sentencing, Pakistani media played video clips of Jadhav, which many claimed were doctored, ‘confessing’ that he was indeed a spy who had been sent in to Balochistan to plan terror attacks. The Pakistani version of Jadhav’s arrest from Balochistan has been denied by India. As per Indian claims, Jadhav was kidnapped from the border town of Zahedan in Iran’s Sistan & Balochistan province by Pakistan Army proxy groups like the Jaish al Adl, and handed over to Pakistani authorities. Baloch groups operating in region have independently confirmed the Indian version. India approached the ICJ , immediately after the military court in Pakistan sentenced its national to death. While instituting the proceedings, India sought the ICJ to issue instructions to Pakistan to not take any action on the sentence awarded to Kulbhushan Jadhav. In response, the ICJ issued a communication to the Prime Minister of Pakistan to stay the sentence of Jadhav, till the court’s decision on the case. This was two years ago in May 2017.

After multiple hearings, the ICJ finally issued its judgment on July 17, 2019. ICJ press release no.2019/31 that carries the speaking order of the court, clearly states that “the court finds the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in the matter of the detention and trial of an Indian national , Mr Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, has acted in breach of the obligations incumbent on it under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention  on Consular Relations.” The court also ordered the continued stay of the execution of Jadhav, stating that this was the indispensible condition for the effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and the sentence. Further, all three objections raised by Pakistan on the admissibility of India’s application, including India’s supposed abuse of process, rights and unlawful conduct, were rejected by the Court. Expectedly, the Indian government welcomed the judgment as a vindication of their stand on the case. However, what came as a surprise was that the Pakistani government and the ISPR controlled social, print and electronic media of Pakistan hailed the ICJ decision as a diplomatic defeat for India and the usual “big diplomatic win” for Pakistan. Not only did all the country’s newspapers uniformly carry similar headlines, but even Prime Minster Imran Khan tweeted his appreciation of  the ICJ’s decision not to “acquit, release and return” Kulbhushan Jadhav to India. In short, the Pakistan government entirely brushed under the carpet its defeat and instead projected the judgment as a victory of sorts. 

Almost for sure the ICJ’s directions to Pakistan to review the death sentence of Jadhav will not cut any ice with the Pakistani military establishment. Since his arrest in March 2017, hype has been created around Jadhav’s execution, frequently referred to in the local papers as the ‘Indian monkey’.  At a time when all appears to be going down hill in Pakistan, an anti-India fervor whipped by the ISPR will go a long way in keeping millions of Pakistanis distracted from their otherwise dismal conditions.