Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, granted bail by a Pakistani court on Thursday, led a charmed life in jail despite being a top member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Second only to Hafiz Saeed in the Lashkar hierarchy, Lakhvi was “treated like a state guest and not a terrorist” after being held in December 2008 in connection with the Mumbai terror strike.Lakhvi even fathered a child while confined on terror charges at Rawalpindi’s high-security Adiala jail. This information was given to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by co-accused Abu Jundal, who was packed off to Saudi Arabia by his handlers in the Pakistani establishment in the wake of the international heat generated by the terror attacks.
Both Lakhvi and India-born Jundal worked in close coordination to train and arm Ajmal Kasab and the nine others who came to Mumbai via the sea route. According to Jundal, Lakhvi called on him in Adiala jail to tell him about his marriage and fatherhood. Lakhvi’s child was kept a closely guarded secret even within the LeT ranks.
Jundal’s revelations only reaffirmed the belief in government circles that Lakhvi was being protected by Pakistani authorities— the ISI and the army in particular. Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley, who made several trips to Mumbai to recce the terror targets ahead of 26/11, told the NIA when it went to Chicago to interrogate him that the then ISI chief, Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, visited Lakhvi in Adiala jail.
The American government, too, had shared intelligence with India that Lakhvi had access to a mobile phone in jail and that he continued to run Lashkar’s operations from behind bars. An investigative online journal, ProPublica, had reported that Pakistan’s then army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, had declined to confiscate Lakhvi’s cellphone.
Lakhvi’s importance to the Pakistani establishment can also be judged from the fact that the military commander was guarded by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants even though he was housed in a high-security jail.
For years now, Pakistan has also refused to hand over Lakhvi’s voice samples, needed to establish that he orchestrated the Mumbai attacks from a control room in Karachi. Lakhvi’s voice was identified by Jundal but protective Pakistani authorities, aware that this would amount to clinching evidence, did little to pursue the case against him despite several dossiers being handed over by India.