The alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks has been remanded in police custody for two days in a kidnapping case, a day after another court approved his release.
It is the latest round in a two-week tussle over the detention of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, accused over the terror siege in India’s commercial capital. The affair has worsened already tense ties with India.
The attacks, which left 166 people dead, were blamed on banned Pakistani 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.
A court granted Lakhvi bail on Dec. 18, drawing an angry response from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After that ruling, authorities detained him under a public order law. But on Monday a judge suspended his detention and set bail terms.
At Tuesday’s hearing police Inspector Mohammad Arshad told the court Lakhvi was accused of kidnapping a man six and a half years ago. The court remanded Lakhvi in police custody for two days for further investigation, court officials and defense lawyer Rizwan Abbasi told reporters. Lakhvi was brought to court surrounded by police commandos and paramilitary Rangers. Dozens of police and Rangers were deployed outside the building and on its rooftop.
Abbasi accused the authorities of trumping up the kidnapping charge to keep Lakhvi in jail and avoid a major diplomatic incident with India. “My client was granted bail by an anti-terrorism court on Dec. 18, but the same day the government arrested him under public order law,” he told reporters. “Yesterday the high court suspended that detention order and the moment that order was suspended, before the release of my client, he was arrested in a fake kidnapping case.”
Pakistan, long accused of quietly tolerating militant groups that target India, has promised to crack down on all terror groups after a Taliban school massacre killed 150, mainly children. But Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), a charitable organization seen as a front for LeT, operates openly in the country and its leaders frequently appear on TV delivering fiery speeches against India.
JuD spokesman Nazir Ahmed accused the Pakistan government of caving in to pressure from the United States and India in trying to keep Lakhvi in jail.
The Islamabad High Court’s order on Monday suspending Lakhvi’s detention drew a sharp response from India, which summoned the Pakistani envoy in New Delhi to protest. India has long accused Pakistani intelligence agencies of having had a hand in the Mumbai attacks, a charge denied by Islamabad.