LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, is at the centre of a fresh diplomatic row involving India, Pakistan and China following his release from prison on bail.
A close relative of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, Lakhvi had a central role in planning and executing the assault on India’s financial hub that killed 166 people and injured hundreds more, according to Indian and US security officials.
Though Lakhvi was arrested soon after the attacks, his trial in a Pakistani anti-terrorism court has dragged on at a snail’s pace. Following his release from Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail on April 10 on the orders of the Lahore high court, India decided to seek action against Pakistan through UN Sanctions Committee but the move was blocked by China.
China blocked India's move at UN for action against Pakistan over Lakhvi's release
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken up the issue with the Chinese leadership to convey India’s concerns, PTI quoted its sources as saying. The sources said all members of the UN Sanctions Committee except China backed India’s stand.
"We also raised this bilaterally with the other members of the committee. In the case of China, this matter has been taken up at the highest level," external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
Here are five things you need to know about Lakhvi:
1. Lakhvi, 55, was born in Okara district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, the same district that was home to Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only one of the 10 terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks to be captured alive. In the 1990s, Lakhvi was a member of the Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, the parent body of the LeT. During that decade, Lakhvi worked at LeT's main centre at Muridke near Lahore. Security officials say he was actively involved in fighting in Jammu and Kashmir and later planning the LeT’s operations in the state.
2. Lakhvi was arrested about a week after the Mumbai attacks when Pakistani soldiers raided a LeT camp on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. A few months later, he and six other men were charged with planning, financing and executing the assault on Mumbai. Indian and US security officials say telephone and VoIP intercepts showed Lakhvi was present in a LeT control room in Karachi from where the attackers received instructions.
3. Despite being in prison from December 2008 to April this year, Lakhvi continued to be the operations commander of the LeT. Lakhvi had unfettered access to mobile phones and the internet, allowing him to direct the day-to-day activities of militants. His youngest wife was allowed to stay with him in jail and he fathered a child sometime in 2010 as a result of these conjugal visits, according to Abu Jundal alias Zabiuddin Ansari, the Indian LeT operative deported from Saudi Arabia in 2012. Lakhvi had several rooms next to the jailer’s office in Adiala Jail and received about 100 visitors every day who could meet him without seeking permission from authorities. Former Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani refused to act on a request from US authorities to take away Lakhvi’s mobile phones.
4. Indian diplomats and security officials have described the trial of Lakhvi and the six other suspects in a Pakistani anti-terrorism court as a farce. The judge conducting the trial has been changed eight times till January this year, and at least one judge refused to hear the case because of threats from extremists. The trail suffered a huge setback when Chaudhry Zulfiqar, the fearless prosecutor hired by the Federal Investigation Agency to handle the case, was assassinated in Islamabad in May 2013. Though most reports suggested his killing was linked to his role as prosecutor in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case, it would be hard to ignore the fact that it came weeks after key prosecution witnesses identified the suspects who bought the boats and engine used by the terrorists in the Mumbai attacks.
5. Lakhvi has not been seen in public since his release from prison on April 10 after the Lahore high court dismissed an order to detain him under the Maintenance of Public Order law. Though he has a home in Islamabad, he has been living at an undisclosed location since then, sources in Pakistan said.