26/11 mastermind Lakhvi back in detention

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Islamabad: A day after the detention orders of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, an alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, were declared void by the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the home ministry of Pakistan’s Punjab province reordered his detention on Saturday.

Earlier media reports said the Pakistan government had ordered his detention.

IHC’s Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi on Friday accepted Lakhvi’s appeal filed against his third time detention order and ordered his immediate release.

Lakhvi had been granted bail in both cases against him, including the 2008 Mumbai attack case and the six-year-old case pertaining to the kidnapping of an Afghan national, Dawn reported.

IHC’s decision drew a sharp reaction from New Delhi and the Indian external affairs ministry summoned Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit and sought an explanation over Lakhvi’s release.

Commenting on the IHC order to release Lakhvi, India’s home ministry said in a statement, “It is the responsibility of the Pakistan government to take all legal measures to ensure that Lakhvi does not come out of jail.”

Washington also responded to IHC’s order by saying that Pakistan had promised the US to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack to justice and it hoped that it would do so.

Lakhvi is accused of being the mastermind of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.

The Pakistani government took Lakhvi and other suspects into custody in February 2009 for ‘facilitating’ the attacks.

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had also registered a first information report (FIR) against Lakhvi and six other alleged abettors in 2009.

In August 2009, Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali was appointed special prosecutor in the case. Later, Advocate Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry was also appointed senior prosecutor.

After the murder of Chaudhry Zulfiqar on May 3, 2013, the FIA handed over the job to Abuzar Hasnain Pirzada.

India and some other countries took strong exception to the granting of bail to Lakhvi by an anti-terrorism court, only a couple of days after the December 16 terrorist attacks on the Army Public School, Peshawar.

This forced the government to detain Lakhvi under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO).

The IHC on December 29 suspended the detention order, but the Supreme Court on January 7 restored Lakhvi’s detention and asked the IHC to decide the matter after hearing the federal government.

The prosecution in the Mumbai attacks case has also filed a petition seeking the cancellation of Lakhvi’s bail.

In the petition, the FIA’s special prosecutor claimed, “The fact remained that being the prosecution in such cases has been the most difficult job in our country for the last many years.”

The petition further states, “Even in this case, the prosecutors have been receiving threats on their cellphones during the proceedings which were duly conveyed to the concerned authorities. The witnesses are also not protected and were reluctant to depose against the accused persons in the given situation.”

The government, in the meantime, had registered another FIR against Lakhvi on December 29 in a six-year-old case of the kidnapping of an Afghan national.

Lakhvi through his lawyer had filed petitions for his acquittal in the kidnapping case and for setting aside his detention order.

In-camera hearing of the petition filed by Lakhvi against his detention under the MPO was held initially, during which the Pakistan government submitted some “classified documents” before the court.

The court then resumed hearing in the open court.

On March 2, the IHC directed the Pakistan government not to register any new case against Lakhvi without informing the court.

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