India, Pakistan clash again as court orders release of 26/11 mastermind Lakhvi

  • Imtiaz Ahmad and Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, Islamabad/New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 14, 2015 00:59 IST

A Pakistan court Friday declared the detention of Lashkar-e-Taiba commander and 26/11 mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi illegal and ordered his release , prompting an “outraged” India to summon the country’s high commissioner.

Dismissing Delhi’s action as “unnecessary hype”, Islamabad, in a tit-for-tat gesture, summoned a senior Indian diplomat to protest the public manner in which its envoy was called — showing the breakdown in ties is far from mended despite efforts to re-start dialogue.

Lakhvi — accused of funding and orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people — could walk free from Adiala jail any time now, his lawyer said after the Islamabad high court suspended the detention orders on grounds of insufficient evidence. Lakhvi is one of seven suspects on trial in Pakistan over the attacks.

This is the second time the high court has ordered Lakhvi’s release. The supreme court had overturned the earlier order, calling it a rushed decision. “India conveyed its outrage to Pakistan. This goes against Pakistan’s professed commitment to combat terrorism, including its recently stated policy of not differentiating among terrorists. If a person designated an international terrorist by the UN is released, it will pose a threat that can’t be ignored,” said external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.

Accusing Pakistan of deliberately weakening the case against Lakhvi, MoS for home Kiren Rijiju said, “Pakistan did not present the evidence before the court.”

Abdul Basit, who was summoned to South Block by officiating foreign secretary Anil Wadhwa, said, “Lakhvi may have been granted bail but the trial continues. Let the judicial process take its course.”

The Pakistan foreign office claimed there was little the government could do.

“It was a court decision. The Indian government can’t interfere with court proceedings.. How do you expect us to force the court,” asked spokesperson Tasneem Aslam. “And don’t forget … for three years, access to evidence and our prosecutors’ visit to India was delayed.”

A senior foreign office official said the Indian deputy high commissioner was summoned and told the court order “does not mean the end of the trial”, adding, “We have conveyed our concern that the Indian reaction is unwarranted and immature.”

Accusing India of trying to whip up anti-Pakistan sentiments, Aslam told an Indian TV channel, “What action has India taken against people like Swami Aseemanand and Colonel Purohit and a lot of military officers, which in a way indicates the involvement of Indian institutions?”

In the same vein, the foreign office official said Pakistan had not reacted when Indian courts had granted the Samjhauta Express bomb attack mastermind bail.

Lakhvi has been charge-sheeted by the National Investigation Agency for his role in a larger conspiracy to carry out attacks in India, beginning with Mumbai. The agency’s request to share evidence against Lakhvi under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty is yet to get a response from Pakistan, a source said.

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