Islamabad/New Delhi: The Islamabad High Court Monday ordered conditional release of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack, drawing strong protests from India, which summoned the Pakistani envoy to "convey concern" over the development.
Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi who heard a petition filed by Lakhvi, seeking an end to his detention, suspended his detention and asked him to submit a security bond of Pakistani Rs.1 million (around $9,000), Dawn online reported.
On Dec 18, Lakhvi was granted post-arrest bail by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Islamabad. However, the federal government extended his detention in the Adiala Jail under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance.
On Dec 26, Lakhvi challenged his detention in the high court.
During Monday's hearing, Lakhvi's counsel Rizwan Abbasi said the court previously accepted his client's bail plea, but the administration detained him, which was unlawful. He said grant of bail was an issue of fundamental right.
After hearing the arguments, the court suspended Lakhvi's detention.
Lakhvi is among the seven people charged with planning and helping to carry out the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. The six other men facing trial in Adiala Jail for their alleged involvement are Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Younas Anjum, Jamil Ahmed, Mazhar Iqbal and Abdul Majid.
At the time of the terror strike, Lakhvi was believed to be the operational head of the banned Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) that has been accused by India of carrying out the attack in its financial capital that killed 166 people and left over 300 injured.
Lakhvi, along with Zarar Shah, was allegedly the attack's key planner.
In New Delhi, India summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit to convey its "strong concern" over lack of effective action in case and said there appeared no end to that country remaining a safe haven for terror groups despite its own recent tragedies.
India raised its concerns both in New Delhi and Islamabad, while both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition Congress slammed Pakistan.
Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh conveyed to Basit "strong concern at the lack of effective action by Pakistan's prosecuting authorities after the Anti-Terrorism Court ordered the release of internationally designated terrorist Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, whose involvement in the Mumbai terror attack is well known," an external affairs ministry statement said.
She told Basit that India expected Pakistan to abide by the commitment that expeditious steps would be taken to bring all those responsible for the heinous acts of terrorism in Mumbai to justice.
"It was extremely disturbing that despite the assurances we have been receiving over the last 6 years, and the recent tragedies in Pakistan, there seems to be no end in sight to Pakistan remaining a safe-haven for well known terror groups," the statement quoted Sujatha Singh as telling Basit.
Coming out of the meeting, Basit refused to comment."Ask them (the external affairs ministry)," he told reporters.
Former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said the failure by authorities in Pakistan to keep Lakhvi in jail was a betrayal of its claim to fight terror.
"This was only a trial, keeping him (Lakhvi) in jail was the least we expected. It is disappointing, and a complete betrayal of their claim of fighting terror," Khurshid told a news channel.
Congress leader Rashid Alvi said it proves that Pakistan has not learnt its lesson.
"It shows Pakistan is not concerned about how terrorism is spreading. Children were killed on their soil, but they still have not learnt their lesson," he said.
BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao echoed the sentiment.
"The manner in which the Pakistan government has failed to ensure Lakhvi remains in detention, and the manner in which he was allowed to get bail shows Pakistan is not serious about fighting terror," he said.
Another BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said: "Pakistan is differentiating between good and bad terrorism. The terror which strikes its neighbour is good terrorism for them."