ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is alarmed after India threatened to take former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s controversial statement on the 2008 Mumbai attacks to the International Court of Justice.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that India was planning to ‘play’ with the statement in the ICJ - although there were little chances such a plea would be accepted.

One official said: “They (India) have indicated they might do that (move the ICJ on Sharif’s statement). We are alarmed but hopeful that this would not be taken seriously by the ICJ.”

He added: “Even if the statement (of Sharif) is taken as a big news by India, it is not a compelling evidence. The statement just means an opinion.”

In an interview to an English daily, Sharif had claimed that those who attacked the hotel in Mumbai in 2008 were from Pakistan. Sharif asked if “we should allow non-state actors “to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai.” He said: “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”

On Monday, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership rejected the statement. The National Security Committee meeting presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reviewed the recent statement and unanimously termed it ‘incorrect’ and ‘misleading’.

Legal experts said the ICJ had no jurisdiction to try individuals accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity and as it was not a criminal court it did not have a prosecutor able to initiate proceedings.

Pakistan and India are already fighting convicted Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav’s case in the ICJ. Pakistan is hopeful the ICJ will ultimately dismiss the Jadhav’s case. 

Last year, the ICJ asked Pakistan to stay Jadhav’s execution until a final verdict. “Pakistan shall take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in these proceedings,” the ICJ ruled. India had approached the top UN court after Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court for his role in terrorism.

The RAW agent was found guilty of conducting espionage activities in the country. Ignoring all evidence, India, however, maintains he was kidnapped from Iran last year. The trial against Jadhav was conducted under the Pakistan Army Act 1952 and Official Secret Act of 1923. Pakistan is expected to file its counter rejoinder on or before July 17 in the ICJ relating to the case of the Indian spy.

After the Mumbai attacks in 2008, a US Republican lawmaker had said that the perpetrators of such crime should be tried by an international tribunal. Edward Randall Royce said those involved in planning these attacks should be transferred to face trial before the international community in The Hague.

Another official at the foreign ministry said the threats from India about moving the ICJ on Sharif’s statement was ‘hoax’. “They cannot move this case to the ICJ. This is not the mandate of the ICJ. In fact, the ICJ is not mandated to even hear Jadhav’s case,” he insisted.

The official said Pakistan would be ready to defend its case if India did go to the ICJ on the issue. “We can’t stop them (from moving the ICJ) but we know it is not a case for the ICJ,” he said.

Tensions between Pakistan and India have been high since the killing of a Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Wani in July 2016. An attack on Indian forces in September 2016 - that killed 19 soldiers in Uri area of held Kashmir - further heightened the tensions. India also claimed it had carried a “surgical strike” to avenge the Uri attack. Pakistan rejected the Indian claim.

Reports said that cross-border clashes between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India had reached the highest levels in 15 years. Hundreds of people have been killed or wounded in the clashes instigated by India. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since gaining independence from the British in 1947.