Mumbai attacks mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi’s detention under a public security order was suspended today by a Pakistani court, evoking sharp reaction from India which said Pakistan remained a safe-haven for well-known terror groups.
Islamabad High Court Judge Noorul Haq N Qureshi, while accepting Lakhvi’s application challenging his detention under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO), suspended the government’s order in this regard and directed him to submit a surety bond of Rs 1 million. The court also asked Lakhvi to ensure his presence in every hearing of the case.
The government’s law officer was not present when the court gave its ruling.
Anti-Terrorism Court Judge in Islamabad Syed Kausar Abbas Zaidi had on December 18 granted bail to Lakhvi in the Mumbai attacks case citing lack of evidence against him, but before he could be released from jail, the government detained him for three more months under MPO in Adiala Jail where the trial is being held.
A senior official of the Interior Ministry told PTI that the government might detain Lakhvi in another case.
“Since the release of Lakhvi from jail will draw a lot flak from the world especially India, the Pakistani government may detain Lakhvi in any other case like it did in the case of LeJ chief Malik Ishaq,” he said.
Ishaq was remanded to judicial custody in a murder and terrorism case just before his release from a jail after government did not seek extension of his detention under the public security order.
Reacting sharply, India conveyed its “strong concern” to Pakistan over the development, saying, “there seems to be no end in sight to Pakistan remaining a safe-haven for well-known terror groups.”
Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi and the Indian mission in Islamabad took up the issue with the Pakistan Foreign Office.
“Basit was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs by the Foreign Secretary today afternoon. The Foreign Secretary conveyed strong concern at the lack of effective action by Pakistan’s prosecuting authorities after the Anti-Terrorism-Court ordered the release of internationally designated terrorist Lakhvi, whose involvement in the Mumbai terror attack is well known,” Official Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin said in New Delhi.
“It was once again conveyed that we expect the Government of Pakistan to abide by the commitment conveyed to us, including at the highest level, that expeditious steps would be taken to bring all those responsible for the heinous acts of terrorism in Mumbai to justice and that it was extremely disturbing that despite the assurances we have been receiving over the last six years, and the recent tragedies in Pakistan, there seems to be no end in sight to Pakistan remaining a safe-haven for well-known terror groups,” he said.
While suspending Lakhvi’s detention order, the court directed the Pakistan government to file a reply in this regard in the next hearing in the case on January 15.
Advocate Raja Rizwan Abbasi, Lakhvi’s lawyer, told PTI that the Islamabad High Court had suspended the notification of detention of his client.
“The court has suspended the detention of Lakhvi as the government’s notification under MPO was illegal and had no solid legal ground,” Abbasi said.
Lakhvi challenged his detention under MPO in the Islamabad High Court after the government rejected his plea for release.
Lakhvi’s lawyer during today’s hearing also produced the order copy of the trial court that granted him bail.
The order has cited “weak evidence, the registration of the FIR invoking irrelevant sections and hearsay evidence against the suspect”.
It says the main evidence on the basis of which Lakhvi was implicated in the case was the confessional statement of lone surviving attacker Ajmal Kasab, who was subsequently executed in a Mumbai jail on November 21, 2012 after due legal proceedings.
In the concluding paragraph of the order, the judge, however, stated that these observations were “tentative in nature and shall not affect the trial or its fate in future”.
Lakhvi and other six accused – Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum – were allegedly involved in planning and executing the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008 that left 166 people dead.
Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi was arrested in December 2008 and was indicted along with the six others on November 25, 2009 in connection with the case. The trial has been underway since 2009.