NEW DELHI -- The Pakistani government could appeal against an Islamabad high court order on Friday that the alleged mastermind of the November 2008 terrorist attacks on India’s financial capital Mumbai be freed. The court ordered Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi's release calling his detention “illegal.”
Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that Lakhvi has been granted bail in both cases against him -- one pertaining to the Mumbai attacks and the other related to the kidnapping of an Afghan citizen. Lakhvi, a top leader of the banned terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba, is on the most wanted list of India’s National Investigation Agency. India summoned Abdul Basit, the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi, to lodge a formal protest over the issue.
“Pakistan showed its commitment in arresting and convicting the people who had been allegedly involved in the Mumbai attacks, and we have been cooperating with the Indian government. It shows the government’s commitment to bring the matter to a close through the trial process,” Riffat Masood, the Pakistan government’s acting spokeswoman, told International Business Times over the phone from Islamabad. "The government has maintained its position of convicting this individual along with the others. But you know, we are all in the hands of the courts," she added.
On Nov. 26, 2008, as many as 10 men from Pakistan attacked Mumbai, killing more than 160 people and injuring over 300 others. The attackers came ashore on inflatable boats from Pakistan without being intercepted by Indian intelligence agencies. Later that night, and over the following four days, these men carried out a series of coordinated attacks on high-value targets in Mumbai. Indian security forces killed all but one of the attackers. Ajmal Kasab, the lone attacker caught alive, was tried in India and executed in November 2012.
Lakhvi, who had been in detention since February 2009, was arrested by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. He was granted bail in December last year, just two days after the deadly attacks on an army-run school in Peshawar, but Pakistani authorities again detained him under international pressure, including from India.
Reacting to the court's order, the Indian government said that “the overwhelming evidence” against Lakhvi “has not been presented properly before court by Pakistan,” and that it was “the responsibility of the Pakistan government to take all legal measures to ensure that Lakhvi does not come out of jail.”
“Pakistan should realize there are no good terrorists or bad terrorists,” the Indian home ministry said.
Rumel Dahiya, a retired Indian army official, who heads the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, a New Delhi-based think tank, said that it would be in Pakistan’s interest to keep Lakhvi in detention and to ensure he is not released.
“At the end of the day, it is for the home government to take action. It is well known that courts in Pakistan have been reluctant to take action against terrorists in Pakistan,” he said. Dahiya also noted that India’s leverage in trying to get Pakistan to act against Lakhvi would be limited. “But I think if the Pakistanis are sensible enough, they should take this to the Supreme Court.”
“Our prosecution is reconsidering what has happened,” Masood told IBTimes.