Unmoved by Peshawar massacre, Pakistan frees 26/11 mastermind

Pakistan invariably succeeds in implicating itself in the crime of fomenting cross-border terrorism and exporting jihadis to India.

By allowing Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who heads the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and masterminded the hideous 26/11 attacks on multiple targets in Mumbai, to walk free, Pakistan has once again demonstrated that it is singularly reluctant to combat terrorism emanating from its soil.

It would be easy to dismiss the entire episode of Lakhvi’s release from Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi (where the Pakistani Army’s headquarters are located) a day after the Lahore High Court suspended the detention order under which he was being held in custody, as no more than a failed state’s further collapse into lawlessness. Some would argue, and justifiably so, that a terror-sponsoring state could not have been expected to act otherwise.

Illustration/Amit Bandre
Illustration/Amit Bandre

But shrugging our shoulders and moving along are no longer an option. We have shrugged our shoulders and ignored the scary truth for far too long. True, it is not for India to bring a Pakistani citizen to justice; nor is any purpose served by cavilling against the Pakistani judiciary’s pro-jihadi biases. It is the same judiciary that has upheld the lower court’s verdict sentencing a poor Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, to death on trumped up charges of ‘blasphemy’.

Unless pardoned by the Supreme Court, Aasia Bibi could be marched to the gallows in the near future. It is unlikely that the Pakistani Army, which now takes the call on whether to hang or not hang a convict sentenced to death, will show leniency towards a ‘blasphemer’. Nothing would give greater joy to Pakistan’s vast majority than to see a Christian being executed. It would be like a Roman Circus.

Ironically, or perhaps not, the spate of executions in Pakistan ever since the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted after the grisly massacre of school children in Peshawar by the Pakistani Taliban, has not seen a single terrorist being sent to the gallows. Murderers and robbers, yes; those who slaughter in the name of Islam, no.

Yet the world naively buys the fiction that Peshawar has prompted the Pakistani Government and Army to act in unison against terrorism and its perpetrators.

The truth, however, remains that the Pakistani establishment, whether it is the rickety and anaemic so-called civilian government or the murderous Army and its sinister offshoots like the ISI, is not inclined towards penalising those guilty of terrorism. This would specially hold true for those whom the Pakistani Army considers to be its assets, to be used for terror strikes in India and Afghanistan.

Lakhvi is one of them, as is Hafiz Muhammad Sayeed who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, the mother of all terrorist organisations in this region.

Under intense global pressure and in the face of unassailable evidence of the involvement of Sayeed, Lakhvi and elements in the Army and ISI (Pakistan was to later describe the ‘dossiers’ provided by India as ‘fiction’), the Pakistani government had ordered the arrest of Lakhvi and several others.

But beyond that, nothing was done to prosecute them for their crime. They were put up in plush rooms in the jail (Lakhvi had a suite to himself) and allowed access to visitors and guests. Lakhvi continued to manage the LeT’s affairs, holding regular meetings with his commanders inside the jail and under the noses of prison officials. Such was the Pakistani establishment’s concern for Lakhvi that he was allowed ‘conjugal visits’ to his home and fathered a child while in detention.

In a sense, it makes little or no difference whether Lakhvi is in jail or out on bail. Either way, he will never be tried for his crime, the cold-blooded mass murder of 164 people in Mumbai in November 2008. Had the Pakistani establishment been honest in its claimed war on terror, Lakhvi and his co-conspirators would have long departed from this world.

That did not happen. Instead, we have seen frivolous cases being filed against him, crucial evidence of his involvement in 26/11 being not presented in court and the prosecution literally allowing Lakhvi to escape punishment. This would not have been so without the intervention of those who are obliged to Lakhvi and other ‘non-state actors’.

There are Generals in Rawalpindi and politicians in Islamabad who would not allow any harm to come Lakhvi’s way. Recall how they sheltered Osama bin Laden.

It is not for nothing that the US has decided to reward Pakistan with a fresh supply of sophisticated weapons, worth a billion dollars. The US and its stooge are truly made for each other.

The writer is a senior journalist based in the National Capital Region. His Twitter handle is @KanchanGupta

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