The anti-terrorism court in Pakistan gave bail to LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a key planner of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, despite evidence against him in the case which was nearing its end, prosecution said on Thursday, disclosing that they will challenge the decision.
"As the trial was near conclusion the Anti-Terrorism Court Islamabad Thursday granted bail to Lakhvi despite evidence against him," prosecution chief Chaudhry Azhar told PTI.
As seven judges of the Mumbai case have been replaced since the start of the trial in 2009, Jutsice Kausar Abbasi Zaidi is the eighth one holding the in camera proceedings at Adiala Jail Rawalpindi due to security concerns.
"We have so far produced 46 witnesses in the court who testified against all seven accused - Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum. Only 15 more witnesses have to testify against them in coming days. And the trial is likely to be concluded in three to four weeks," he said.
An interior ministry spokesperson told PTI that the government would certainly file an appeal against the trial court's decision.
"We have a strong case against the seven accused of the Mumbai terror attacks and we challenge Lakhvi's bail in the high court," said the official who requested anonymity.
The official further said that the government may not release Lakhvi under 16 MPO (Maintenance of Public Order) law.
The trial court has asked Lakhvi to submit surety bonds worth Rs 500,000 surety before he can be released.
"There has been many cases like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi chief Malik Ishaq who could not be freed from jail despite granted bail by the court because they may create law and order situation. The government is seriously pondering to detain Lakhvi under 16 MPO for a month or three months," the official said.
Lakhvi, the operational head of the banned Laskhar-e-Taiba, was one of the key planners of the Mumbai attack.
Nine of the terrorists involved in the attack were killed by Indian security forces. The only surviving attacker, Ajmal Kasab, was hanged after conviction by a trial court that was confirmed and upheld by higher courts in India.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani electronic media literally gave "no coverage" to Lakhvi's bail news.
The news channels avoided broadcasting the news in the backdrop of the Peshawar tragedy in which 132 children were massacred by Taliban the other day.
Hardly a few channels ran the news in tickers.