Despite bail, 26/11 mastermind Lakhvi to stay behind bars

The Pakistani government today said it will challenge in the Lahore High Court the granting of bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, considered the mastermind behind the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks by a trial court.

Further, the Lashkar-e-Toiba commander, who was due to be released today, will remain under detention at Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail under the country's Maintenance of Public Order rules, the government said.

India on Thursday had strongly protested to Pakistan against the release on bail of Lakhvi. Calling the bail granted to him unacceptable, India demanded immediate steps for reversal of the decision.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan's anti-terrorism court in Rawalpandi granted bail to Lakhvi citing lack of evidence. However, in an apparent damage control effort, the Pakistan government said that the bail was a "technical error" and on their part and officials said they would oppose it.

In a sharp reaction to the bail granted to 54-year-old Lakhvi, declared a terrorist by the United Nations, New Delhi told Islamabad that there could be no selective approach to terrorism.

"We cannot accept that LeT's chief operation commander Zakiur Lakhvi, one of the key conspirators of the Mumbai terror attacks in which so many innocent people were slaughtered, a person designated as an international terrorist by the UNSC, is being released on bail," external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

Noting that the release comes just two days after the dastardly terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar, where 132 children were systematically butchered by the Pakistani Taliban, he said the grant of bail to Lakhvi will serve as a reassurance to terrorists who perpetrate heinous crimes.

The Indian government is reportedly working with its mission in Pakistan to prepare a strong response to the court's granting of bail.

Lakhvi and six others had filed bail applications on Wednesday even as lawyers were observing a strike to condemn the terrorist attack on an army-run school in Peshawar that left 148 people, mostly children, dead.

Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency prosecutor disagreed with the bail request; but was overruled.

Prosecution chief Chaudhry Azhar expressed surprise at the bail, saying that the trial against Lakhvi was yet to conclude as 15 more witnesses were to testify against him.
"After going through the court order in Lakhvi's bail case we will decide to challenge it," Azhar said.

Lakhvi and six others - Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum - are facing trial and are lodged in the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.

Lakhvi, was the operational head of the banned Laskhar-e-Taiba, and was one of the key planners of the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. His release from jail comes a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to announce a "national plan" to tackle terrorism within a week, saying "this entire region" should be cleansed of terrorism.