Pak should not allow Lakhvi to get away

The Indian government’s worst fears came true last week when a Pakistan court granted bail to the suspected mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group.

That the Pakistan government swiftly ensured his continued  detention on the grounds of public order maintenance is another matter but the fact that his bail came about in the 26/11 case is what shocked India. Lakhvi’s bail came just two days after the Peshawar students’ massacre, adding a diabolical dimension. His bail served to reconfirm the impression that terrorism has taken hold of Pakistan rendering its democratic institutions weak and ineffectual.

The Nawaz Sharif government’s move to ensure that Lakhvi stayed behind bars was no doubt a result of the anger and dismay in the Indian Parliament over his bail but it may also be an indication that Islamabad, after the Peshawar massacre, is forced to take the issue more seriously.

Significantly, even a section of the Pakistan media disapproved of Lakhvi’s bail.
It is no one’s case that 132 students had to be massacred for the Pakistan government to act against Lakhvi but given the instability in Pakistan and the internal violence it has witnessed over the last few years, such a denouement was natural.

The meandering route taken by the Mumbai attacks trial in Pakistan since 2009 has driven Delhi up the wall with, among other things, key conspirator Hafiz Sayeed being allowed to move around freely and spit venom against India. Islamabad did not appear politically driven to take the case to the logical end and get the guilty punished.

Lakhvi himself, though in jail, was reportedly allowed to live lavishly and during his time there even fathered a child – under Pakistan law prisoners do not enjoy conjugal rights. Several other factors including frequent adjournments, the lackadaisical approach of lawyers and change of judges, only served to strengthen the impression that Islamabad was going through the motions of a trial.

It is in this context that the Sharif Government’s move to get Lakhvi’s detention extended gains importance. For the first time, Islamabad has acted with a firm hand against one of the accused.
It seems that the ruthlessness of the Peshawar students’ massacre has shaken the core of the nation and it is now dawning on its rulers that terrorism can strike anyone and a blowback can be devastating. This should spur Islamabad to take the 26/11 trial more seriously and show the world it means business when it comes to dealing with terrorism.

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