Alleged Mumbai attacks mastermind remains in prison for now.
The Islamabad High Court on Friday cancelled a detention order against the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, according to a senior government lawyer, potentially paving the way for his release.
It is the latest round in a tussle over Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, accused over the terror siege that left 166 dead, which has worsened already strained ties with India.
Lakhvi was granted bail by an anti-terror court in December, infuriating New Delhi, but quickly slapped with a detention order under public order laws. The Islamabad High Court suspended that order, only for the Supreme Court to reinstate it in January.
On Friday the High Court once again set aside the detention order, senior government lawyer Jehangir Jadoon told AFP, adding that a detailed judgment explaining the decision was expected later. The latest ruling means Lakhvi could be released, though the government can still appeal to the Supreme Court and for now he remains in jail. Throughout the three-month back and forth over Lakhvi’s detention, he has never been let out of Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.
The original bail order in December prompted an angry response from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said it came as “a shock to all those who believe in humanity.”
India on Friday reacted with displeasure to the court’s decision. “Pakistani agencies must produce incriminating evidence available in the court of law in Pakistan. And there should be no discrimination in showing the character of terrorists. Terrorists cannot be bad or good terrorists,” Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju told reporters. “They must ensure that Lakhvi doesn’t get out on bail and doesn’t get out of jail. If proper legal measures are taken then I am sure Lakhvi will not get out of jail.”
The Mumbai attacks were blamed on banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). India has long seethed at Pakistan’s failure either to hand over or prosecute those accused of planning and organizing the violence.
Lakhvi and six other suspects have been charged in Pakistan but their cases have made virtually no progress in more than five years.
Delhi accuses Islamabad of prevaricating over the trials, while Pakistan has claimed India failed to hand over crucial evidence.
Maulana Abdul Aziz Alvi, the head of the Kashmir chapter of Jamaat-ud-Dawah, welcomed the court’s decision. “It is a victory of truth which has a very positive impact on the judicial system of Pakistan,” Alvi said.