ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will execute an Indian man arrested in the southwestern province of Balochistan last year who officials claim has confessed to being a spy for Indian intelligence, the country’s powerful military said today.
The man, named by the army as Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav who also goes by the alias Hussein Mubarak Patel, was found guilty by a military court and sentenced to death.
“Today, (army chief) Gen Qamer Javed Bajwa confirmed his death sentence,” a military statement said, without stating when the execution would take place.
India has denied that he was a spy, calling the claims “baseless”. There was no immediate reaction from New Delhi to today’s announcement.
The nuclear arch-rivals routinely accuse one another of sending spies into their countries, and it is not uncommon for either nation to expel diplomats accused of espionage, particularly at times of high tension.
However, death sentences have rarely been issued in such cases in recent years.
In 2013, an Indian national sentenced to death for spying in Pakistan was killed in jail after being attacked by fellow inmates. Sarabjit Singh had been on death row for 16 years.
In 1999, another Indian man, Sheikh Shamim, was hanged in a Pakistani jail almost ten years after he was caught “red-handed” near the border and arrested on charges of spying.
Pakistani analyst Hassan Askari said the decision would “further increase tension between the two countries”.
“The military has given a severe punishment which is according to Pakistani law,” he told AFP.
“But we will have to see if Pakistan can sustain the political and diplomatic fall-out.”
Relations between the two countries have plummeted since a deadly attack on an Indian army base in the disputed region of Kashmir in September, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed.
There have since been repeated outbreaks of cross-border firing, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full.
The neighbours have fought three wars since independence from Britain seven decades ago, two of them over Kashmir.
Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but least developed province, has been battling a years-long separatist insurgency that the army has repeatedly characterised as “terrorism”, promoted by hostile states such as India.