Updated: March 16, 2015 12:12:20 am
The Islamabad High Court ordered the release of 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operations chief, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, last Friday. Lakhvi had been granted bail in the Mumbai case immediately after the Peshawar school attacks but the ensuing outrage led to the Pakistan government arresting him under an old case of kidnapping. On being granted bail in that case, the government detained him under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Act, extending it three times. After his release, however, India rightly pointed out that it was Pakistan’s responsibility to keep Lakhvi behind bars because of the overwhelming evidence of his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack. India was particularly offended as the foreign secretary had recently visited Islamabad to restart the engagement process with Pakistan. The sustained pressure from India seems to have worked. Before he could be released, Lakhvi has been detained for a month by the Punjab provincial government under the MPO.
In all likelihood, Lakhvi’s lawyer will challenge this detention and it will set off a sequence of events that again highlight the weakness of Pakistan’s judicial system. While releasing Lakhvi on Friday, for instance, the court had not taken cognisance of the documents submitted by India in the Mumbai terror case. This was after Pakistan’s additional attorney general had argued that Lakhvi’s release could plague Pakistan’s ties with other countries. The fact is, Pakistan’s record of prosecution in high-profile terror cases is poor. Eight judges have been changed in the Mumbai terror attack case and the special prosecutor in the case, Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, was gunned down. The new special prosecutor has said “prosecution in such cases has been the most difficult job”. A judge refused to visit Adiala jail for security reasons, prosecutors were threatened over cell phone during court proceedings and witnesses were scared to depose against the accused. In such a scenario, the argument that India should trust Pakistan’s judicial system holds little merit.
While in detention, Lakhvi continues to bend the rules of the game — he has several rooms, right next to the jailer’s office in Adiala prison, at his disposal; he has the jailer’s permission to keep a television and mobile phones, access to the internet as well as dozens of visitors daily. Even so, Pakistan’s decision to keep him under detention is welcome. For now, it indicates Islamabad’s receptiveness to India’s concerns and Nawaz Sharif’s willingness to reciprocate India’s friendly gestures towards Pakistan.
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