Pakistan court grants bail to alleged Mumbai attacks mastermind
“We had moved a bail application with the Islamabad anti-terror court on December 10, today the judge granted bail to my client after hearing arguments from both sides,” Lakhvi’s lawyer Rizwan Abbasi told AFP.
Prosecutor Mohammad Chaudhry Azhar confirmed the court had granted bail.
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the decision was “very unfortunate”.
“India has given enough evidence (against Lakhvi). We expect the Pakistan government to appeal at the earliest,” he told journalists in Delhi.
The court’s ruling comes a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to crack down on terror groups in Pakistan, after Taliban gunmen massacred 148 people, mostly teenagers, at a school.
Sharif on Wednesday announced that a six-year moratorium on the death penalty would be lifted for those convicted of terror offences.
The horror of the Mumbai carnage played out on live television around the world, as commandos battled the heavily-armed gunmen, who arrived by sea on the evening of November 26.
It took the authorities three days to regain full control of the city and New Delhi has long said there is evidence that “official agencies” in Pakistan were involved in plotting the attack.
– Traumatic attacks –
Islamabad denies the charge but LeT’s charitable arm Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), seen as a front for the militant group, operates openly in the country.
LeT founder Hafiz Saeed also leads a high-profile existence despite a $10 million US government bounty offered for his capture, regularly appearing on TV and addressing large public gatherings of his followers.
As well as Mumbai, LeT is also accused of involvement in militancy in Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan region that is the source of much of Pakistan and India’s friction.
The sole surviving gunman from Mumbai, Pakistani-born Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, was hanged in India in 2012.
The attacks traumatised India, exposing the antiquated weapons and methods of the local police force and revealing crucial gaps in the country’s defences.
In the wake of the Peshawar massacre on Tuesday, Sharif said Pakistan would not distinguish between “good Taliban and bad Taliban” as it seeks to crush the scourge of homegrown Islamist militancy.
But scepticism will remain, particularly in India.
Analyst Pervez Hoodbhoy said Thursday’s development would hurt ties with India.
“After the Peshawar massacre there was an outpouring of sympathy for Pakistan from many countries, including India. But this will pass soon,” he told AFP.
Pakistan and India both control part of Kashmir but claim the whole of the territory and have fought two of their three wars over it since independence from Britain in 1947.