The Mumbai terrorist attacks were no ordinary matter. The terrorists hit India’s business capital where they launched audacious attacks for four days. Most of the 166 killed were Indians but there were also over a score of foreigners including six Americans. A number of countries pressured Pakistan to punish those who planned the attacks. Within days security agencies hauled up Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and his associate from a camp run by Lashkar-e-Taiba, founded by Hafiz Saeed.
For seven years the trial has proceeded without any progress. Delays in prosecution have been caused by both sides. Indian authorities refused Pakistani judicial commission access to Ajmal Kasab. Lakvi’s lawyers were not allowed to cross examine Indian officials. Pakistan changed its prosecutor twice while there were delays in the hearing of the case in ATC.
In December last, the ATC allowed Lakhvi’s release on bail on grounds of weak evidence based on hearsay and invocation of irrelevant sections in the FIR. This showed that over the years the prosecution had failed to prepare a sound case against the accused. The government then rearrested Lakhvi under MPO. He was released by Islamabad High Court as the grounds for the arrest were considered unsatisfactory. Lakhvi was once again detained under MPO. This time LHC dismissed the detention orders as it was not satisfied with the ‘sensitive information’ provided by the government.
The government’s negligence has irked the countries whose citizens were killed in the attack. French President Francois Hollande has called Lakhvi’s release ‘shocking’. The strongest reaction has come from the US with State Department spokesperson warning Pakistan that there may be consequences for freeing Lakhvi. A perception is being formed that the government’s legal team did not appear to be serious in securing Lakhvi’s detention for whatever reason as it did not produce the relevant records. Further that in case the attitude continued to persist, there was a likelihood of all the six accused in Mumbai attack case to be released by the court for lack of evidence.