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Pakistan probe agency asks court to cancel Mumbai 26/11 attacks plotter Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi’s bail

Lakhvi was granted bail in April 2015 and his whereabouts are not known. The other six are being held in the high-security Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.

india Updated: Apr 09, 2019 22:13 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan probe agency,Mumbai 26/11 attacks,Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi
The trial in the anti-terrorism court against seven suspects — LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and six others— has made little headway in the past decade. (HT File Photo)

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has moved the Islamabad High Court (HC) seeking cancellation of the bail granted to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who is wanted in India for plotting the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead.

Pakistani media reported FIA referred to the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested for the Mumbai attacks who was executed in 2012, and said it clearly established Lakhvi’s link to the Mumbai attacks. In its appeal, FIA has also cited the threats the judges of the anti-terrorism court hearing the case in Pakistan and FIA prosecutors face as well as the reluctance of the witnesses to depose against the accused.

Lakhvi was one of seven men arrested in Pakistan for their involvement in planning, financing and directing the attacks. He was released on bail from Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail in April 2015. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Islamabad has been under pressure to act against terrorist groups based in Pakistan since 40 paramilitary troopers were killed in a car bomb attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14.

The attack prompted India to carry out an airstrike on a Pakistani terror camp on February 26. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack.

On April 2, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said anti-terror financing watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), could blacklist Pakistan. In June last year, the Paris-based FATF placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries with weak domestic laws related to money laundering and terrorism financing.

The Islamabad HC took up FIA’s appeal for Lakhvi’s bail cancellation on Tuesday around a month before FATF is due to review in May Pakistan’s actions in curbing terror financing and money laundering. In a report earlier this year, FATF specifically raised concerns about the activity of eight terror groups, including the LeT, in Pakistan.

Pakistani media reported the HC sought within two weeks the records of the Mumbai attacks case as the FIA cited the difficulties in prosecuting the seven accused. “The fact remains that such cases of [banned] terrorist organisations are not so easy to be conducted and especially the prosecution in such cases is the most difficult job in our country for the last many years,” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper quoted FIA’s appeal as saying.

“In the present case, the learned trial judge [of the anti-terrorism court] after the terrorist attack in Islamabad courts [in March 2013] refused to visit Adiala Jail [for the trial] for a long time due to security reasons.”

The appeal added the threats prosecutors received during the proceedings were conveyed to the authorities concerned. “The witnesses are also not secured, and reluctant to depose against the accused persons in the given situation.”

The appeal said Kasab’s confessional statement is still a part of the evidence in the case and had not been discarded.

Lakhvi’s lawyer argued the prosecution is not pursuing the case.

Dawn reported the local witnesses were not appearing to testify and the anti-terrorism court had issued perpetual warrants for their arrest. It added Pakistan had approached the Indian government to arrange the testimony of 24 Indian witnesses on an FIA request. “After directing the prosecution to produce the records of the case, the high court adjourned the matter for a fortnight,’’ it reported.

The trial against the seven suspects has made little headway over the past decade. The other six suspects are being held in the high-security Adiala Jail.

The court suspended the trial in the case in January to give the prosecution more time to produce 19 witnesses who have not testified so far.

India reiterated its call for prosecuting the masterminds and facilitators of the attacks on the 10th anniversary of the carnage in November last year. It said Pakistan has shown “little sincerity in bringing the perpetrators to justice”.

US and Indian officials have said Lakhvi continued to function as the LeT’s operations commander while he was in jail, where he lived in luxury with several rooms at his disposal. A close relative of LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, Lakhvi had access to mobile phones and the internet and received visitors in prison.

Pakistan reinstated a ban on two groups linked to LeT — the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation — in February following the Pulwama attack. The US has offered $10 million for information leading to Saeed’s arrest and conviction for his role in masterminding the Mumbai attacks. Saeed has been placed under house arrest several times.

First Published: Apr 09, 2019 12:18 IST