Pakistan court orders 26/11 mastermind Lakhvi's release; outraged India summons envoy

Islamabad/New Delhi:  The Islamabad High Court on Friday declared the detention orders of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack, as illegal and ordered his immediate release, triggering strong reaction from India which summoned the Pakistan envoy in New Delhi to lodge its protest.

The issue also figured in the Rajya Sabha with members expressing their concern at the development, while the government accused Pakistan of not providing enough evidence against Lakhvi and demanded steps to ensure that he does not come out of jail. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party said Pakistan should take credible action against Lakhvi.

The Indian ministry of external affairs summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and lodged a strong protest at the development.

Basit told the media later that Lakhvi's trial continues and the judicial process should be allowed to take its own course.

Lakhvi is accused of being the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 in which 166 people, many of them foreigners, were killed and hundreds others wounded.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told reporters that India has asked the Pakistani authorities to ensure that Lakhvi is not released from jail.

"All documents related to his involvement in the Mumbai attack case have not been presented in Pakistani courts. Hence the (Islamabad) court has ordered his release," he said.

"We want that the Pakistan government should take this matter seriously and take steps to ensure that he doesn't come out of jail," he added.

The Rajya Sabha briefly witnessed uproar as members sought to raise the issue.

Pramod Tiwari of the Congress expressed concern and said that the court had ordered release of Lakhvi.

"The Mumbai terror attack happened in India. If a criminal incident takes place inside the country, the legal case should be filed within the boundary of the country," he said.

Lakhvi, along with six other suspects, was in detention since February 2009.

The Pakistani government took Lakhvi and other suspects into custody in February 2009 over charges of "facilitating" the Mumbai terror attack.

India had earlier taken strong exception to grant of bail to Lakhvi last year, days after the December 16 terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar.

The Islamabad High Court on December 29 last year suspended the detention order but this was restored later.

The court on Friday declared Lakhvi's detention orders illegal and ordered his immediate release.

Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nalin Kohli told IANS that intentions and efforts of Pakistan were "consistently in question when it comes to justice on the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack".

He said Pakistan should "show movement towards punishing" those involved in the terror incident.

"In any case, the approach of good terrorist and bad terrorist that Pakistan practices confirms its lack of seriousness in eliminating terrorists," Kohli said.

Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha said Lakhvi was the principal mastermind of 26/11 attack and if he is released, "it opens up a threat for India".

"It is responsibility of prosecutors to ensure that he is not released," Jha told IANS.

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