The Islamabad high court Monday suspended detention orders for 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, prompting New Delhi to summon Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit to register “strong concern” that “Pakistan remains a safe-haven for terror groups”.
The move effectively makes the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander a free man, though he is yet to be released from a high-security Rawalpindi prison.
The Islamabad administration did not confirm when Lakhvi could be released but his lawyer, Raja Rizwan Abbasi told the media he was hopeful of securing his client’s release in the next day or two.
Lakhvi was granted bail by an anti-terrorism court on December 18, which raised tempers in India. But before he could be released the government detained him for 30 days under section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) arguing that Lakhvi may hold public meetings to regroup after the Peshawar school massacre.
Lakhvi appealed against the order on December 26. Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi found the government’s argument unconvincing and suspended the detention order, directing Lakhvi to submit a surety bond of Rs 10,00,000.
The Pakistan government plans to appeal the latest decision and Lakhvi’s bail on January 7 when the high court resumes after winter vacation. But till then Lakhvi may walk around free.
An official, however, said the government may detain Lakhvi in another case. “Since the release of Lakhvi from jail will draw flak from across the world, especially India.”
Foreign secretary Sujatha Singh expressed ire for the “mockery of assurances” by Pakistan and the failure of the prosecution to take ‘urgent action’ against Lakhvi’s bail order.
The latest move has once again brought into question Pakistan’s resolve to fight terrorism with an even hand, as promised by PM Nawaz Sharif following the attack on a Peshawar school earlier this month.
Lakhvi belongs to Pakistan Punjab’s Okara district and Islamabad Monday requested the Punjab home department to issue detention orders so he could not move to Okara.
“This is a challenge for the Sharif government as Punjab is under the PML-N party headed by Sharif’s younger brother. They must detain Lakhvi under the MPO in Punjab to show they are serious about fighting terrorism,” said analyst Abid Hussain, adding “otherwise we will know that the government cannot touch the ISI’s assets and this is the message being given.”