In a move that evoked shock from India, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi has granted bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, one of the key conspirators in the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. India immediately told Pakistan that release of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) commander was unacceptable and demanded immediate steps for the reversal of the decision.
VICE News The alleged mastermind behind the brutal 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai that left 166 people dead has today been granted bail by a Pakistani court in Islamabad, apparently due to lack of evidence.
Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi is one of seven individuals arrested and accused of carrying out the massacre in the Indian city. Lakhvi’s lawyer told Reuters that their client could be out as soon as Monday — once he pays approximately one million rupees, or $10,000, in bonds ordered by the anti-terrorism court.
Speaking to PTI news agency, his attorney Raja Rizwan Abbasi said the court decided to allow Lakhvi’s release because “evidence against Lakhvi was deficient.”
Lakhvi is largely believed to have been in charge of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist cell — the mostly Pakistan-based militant group that was implicated in the attack — when the events occurred. He has also been linked to various other attacks carried out in Mumbai. While Lashkar-e-Taiba largely operates out of Pakistan, it is officially banned in the country.
Pakistani authorities apprehended Lakhvi in 2009, but refused to send him to India for trial. All but one of the gunmen were killed during the massacre, and the remaining fighter, Ajmal Amir Kasab, was captured by authorities in the midst of the violence, and eventually hanged in 2012.
In a siege that began on November 26, 2008, 10 armed fighters believed to be affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorized multiple sites in the financial hub with gunfire and bombs, including a synagogue and Jewish community center, train station, a hospital, and the luxury Taj hotel. In addition to the more than 160 people killed, another 308 were injured.
Many have already spoken out against the Thursday’s court decision, including India’s Interior Minister Rajnath Singh.
“I think it shouldn’t have happened. I believe that all the evidences that have been provided by the Indian government are enough to convict Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and the Pakistan government should appeal against this in the upper court as soon as possible,” he said, according to Al Jazeera.
The news of Lakhvi’s bail comes just 48-hours after seven Pakistani Taliban gunmen opened fire on a school in the city of Peshawar during an attack that left 162 people dead — 132 of whom were children.
After speaking with the country’s political leaders, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed the attacks at a press conference, saying unity was needed for Pakistan’s battle against terrorism.
“This fight will continue until all terrorists are defeated,” he said. “At no stage there would be any discrimination between the good and bad Taliban and all would be dealt equally with an iron hand.”