Islamabad/New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) An anti-terrorism court in Islamabad Thursday granted bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a key mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, triggering shock and indignation in India which asked Pakistan to take steps to reverse the decision.
Lakhvi’s lawyer Rizwan Abbasi appeared before the court and sought bail for his client. Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) prosecutor disagreed with the bail plea, Dawn online reported.
The court directed Lakhvi, among the seven people charged with planning and helping to carry out the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attack which left at least 166 people dead, to pay surety bonds worth Pakistani Rs.500,000 before he can be released on bail.
At the time of the 26/11 attack, Lakhvi was believed to be the operational head of the banned Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) that is accused by India of carrying out the attack in its financial capital.
The news about Lakhvi’s bail led to expressions of shock in India, especially as it came a day after parliamentarians and school children across India observed two minutes silence over the Peshawar school terror attack and many also held candle light marches to denounce the killing of over 130 children.
On Wednesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pronounced that Islamabad would henceforth not differentiate between “good” terrorists and “bad” terrorists. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendara Modi spoke to Sharif to condemn the attack and offered to provide all assistance.Home
Minister Rajnath Singh, reacting to the news of the bail, said it was “very unfortunate, and believe it should not have happened,” and added that the evidence provided by India to Pakistan on the Mumbai terror case was “more than enough to nail him”.
He said the Pakistan government should appeal in a higher court and get the bail cancelled.
The external affairs ministry, in a strong statement, said the bail granted to Lakhvi would “serve as a reassurance to terrorists who perpetrate heinous crimes” and called up Pakistan to immediately take steps to reverse the decision.
It said “Given the scale of the tragedy that Pakistan itself has faced in recent days, it is incumbent on it to realise that no compromise can ever be made with terrorists”, and that “There can be no selective approaches to terrorism”.
Indian political leaders, cutting across party lines, Thursday condemned the bail to Lakhvi and expressed doubts whether Pakistan was “serious enough” in its fight against terror.
“The fight against terror cannot be duplicitous, seeking to differentiate between the ones who operate in India and others who attack in Pakistan,” BJP leader Nalin Kohli told IANS.
“The case of Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi confirms complete non-serious approach by which Pakistan seeks to deny justice for the victims of Mumbai terror attacks,” he said.
Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani also termed the bail order “very shocking”, especially coming after the Peshawar attack.
The Congress said it was the responsibility of Pakistan to “ensure justice” to the victims of Mumbai attack.
“We have given all evidence against the perpetrators of the 26/11 attack to Pakistani establishment and it is imperative that the prosecutor ensure justice to the victims,” said the party’s Sanjay Jha.
“It is Pakistan government’s responsibility to ensure that people like Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed, who roam freely there making speeches against India are stopped and immediate action is taken against them,” Jha told IANS.
Former union minister Shashi Tharoor also termed the bail “truly shocking”.
The Aam Aadmi Party also said Pakistan should get Lakhvi’s bail cancelled.
Ujjwal Nikam, public prosecutor in the Mumbai terror attack case, termed it as “very shocking” news. Nikam said that Lakhvi was being tried in the case since 2008 and “when the court says no evidence it means that our case has not been properly represented in the court”.
“If Pakistan wants to fight terrorism, they should fight terrorist who are inside the state,” he added.
Former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, G. Parthasarathy told IANS he is not surprised in least” at the development.
“The LeT enjoys not only patronage of the Pakistani army but also Prime Minister (Nawaz) Sharif, who has had a long time relationship with Hafiz Saeed extending for years; and he received patronage I know when I was high commissioner from then prime minister Sharif, and even now in his third term, his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, is funding the Lashkar.”
“You can draw your conclusions from this,” he said.