DAWN Editorials | July 18, 2020

Jadhav affair

THE strange saga of convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav took a twist on Thursday when Pakistan offered diplomats from the Indian high commission consular access, but New Delhi’s officials walked out in a huff, claiming that Pakistan did not offer them “unimpeded access” to Jadhav. Even though consular access was offered a third time on Friday, it was uncertain whether the Indian side would accept. The Jadhav affair dates back to 2016, when the spy — apparently a serving Indian Navy officer — was caught in suspicious circumstances in Balochistan. The fact that an Indian individual was caught in such a sensitive location added to suspicions over his activities. The military’s PR wing later released a confessional statement attributed to Jadhav, in which he made some sensational disclosures. Apparently working under a Muslim cover name, Jadhav said he was overseeing some of the operations of RAW, the Indian intelligence agency, in Pakistan, particularly activities in Balochistan and Karachi. Based on these facts, Jadhav was awarded the death sentence by a military court in 2017, following which India went to the International Court of Justice. While the ICJ has stayed the execution and asked Pakistan to review the original verdict, the court also rejected India’s calls for his release.

From the above it is clear this is not an open-and-shut case, and the charges Jadhav has been tried on are very serious. Pakistan has done well by granting consular access, while it has also allowed the spy’s family members to meet him. However, the Indian attitude has, true to form, been quite rigid. The Indians claimed they were not allowed “free conversation” with the convict during Thursday’s meeting. As stated above, considering the charges he has been convicted of, it is naive to expect Pakistan to grant full access to him without taking security precautions. The foreign minister also reiterated the fact that “India’s attitude has always been negative in this regard”.

Instead of politicising the matter, India needs to work with Pakistan on this issue to ensure the ends of justice are met, and the ICJ verdict is respected. Rather than sulking and not availing the opportunity, the Indians need to take advantage of consular access Pakistan is offering. New Delhi should go ahead and file the review and reconsideration petition, as the Foreign Office has pointed out. If this issue is resolved through diplomatic norms and legal means, it could pave the way for the resolution of other tricky disputes between both neighbours. Certainly, due to the seriousness of the charges and the downturn in bilateral relations this will not be easy. But if both states behave like rational actors, a way out can be found. Clearly, if India is willing to deal with Pakistan with respect for its sovereignty, the deadlock can be broken.

 

Risk to medics

THE tragic death of a respected surgeon in Multan has sent shockwaves across the medical community. Dr Mustafa Kamal Pasha, who was also the vice chancellor of Multan’s Nishtar Medical University, passed away this week, a month after contracting the coronavirus. Dr Pasha was diagnosed with Covid-19 on June 14 and was under treatment at a private hospital in Multan. He was put on a ventilator on July 6 and succumbed to the virus a week later. Many in the medical community as well as his patients are mourning the loss of a top doctor in south Punjab. His death also underscored the truly deadly manifestation of Covid-19, which is easily transmissible. His passing serves as a harrowing reminder of the great sacrifice that our front-line workers are making in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.

Nurses, doctors and hospital staff are faced with an unprecedented situation as they deal with patients infected with the novel coronavirus. Since the beginning of the outbreak, Pakistan’s medical community has been warning people against gathering in crowded spaces, and asking them to take precautions as they fear that large numbers of patients would make it difficult for hospitals to cope, as in Europe during the virus’s peak. While we may not have arrived at that stage, healthcare workers continue to undertake their medical responsibilities at great personal risk — much like Dr Pasha who put his life on the line. Hospital staff members have to wear protective suits, face masks, goggles and gloves for hours during their shifts as they treat suspected and confirmed Covid-19 patients. Many of them fear for their family members as the risk of contracting and transmitting the virus to them is significant. This undoubtedly results in high levels of stress and takes a huge toll on the mental health of the medical community. It must be acknowledged that these workers are taking incredible risks in the face of this deadly virus. The government and public should take measures to ensure that the threat to healthcare staff is minimised.

 

Desperate times

PUNJAB Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar is feeling the heat of rumours that he may be passing through a particularly vulnerable phase in his tenure. His lieutenants have responded to the allegations of inaction that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘model ruler’ from southern Punjab has come to personify in various accounts. The Buzdar version of reality — that appeared in an international paper — in the face of relentless speculation about his imminent departure from the seat of power in Lahore, draws upon his unobtrusive persona. It lists his activities over five to six days before he is declared a man of action. Those defending Mr Buzdar have wanted to project him as a low-key worker. But, invariably, comparisons with his predecessor’s proactive and far more visible governance come in the way. Thus, the quieter parallel has been discarded, even in the attempt to stave off his challengers within the PTI. The frequency and intensity of his supporters’ reassurances have left little doubt that their boss is fighting for his life.

 

For other pointers that rekindle memories of past chief ministers fighting for survival, an as-yet smallish group of PML-N provincial lawmakers has found the moment opportune to hobnob with Mr Buzdar, who is looking for as much extra support in the assembly as he can muster. Then, never to be left out of the chessboard are the Chaudhries of Gujrat, who know how to assert their importance and when to do so. They know numerous ways of showing off their deep social, political and, indeed, religious linkages, which makes them invaluable to most power aspirants in Punjab. They have so far been cautious not to give any bold anti-Buzdar signals, but these veterans can also be the first to note that things are getting desperate for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s much-hailed ‘Wasim Akram-plus’. Mr Buzdar’s slow pace and the absence of the ruler’s swagger in his personality are posing a problem for him, as evident in the time he is taking to defuse the threats against him. Each passing day seems to make him all the more vulnerable. It is as if Mr Buzdar is yet another one of those who believe that getting the title was an end unto itself and that it is enough to punctuate one’s rule with promises of exciting milestones. Action must never be dependent on explanation in words, even if one’s listener-mentor happens to be as accommodating as Prime Minister Imran Khan.


Disclaimer: Published in The DAWN, July 18, 2020

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