Lahore : A day after the Lahore High Court ordered his release, mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi walked a free man on Friday, as India termed it the “most negative development” in bilateral relations between the two neighbours. 

The 55-year-old was released from Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi after being under detention for six years.  Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) supporters were present outside the prison to receive Lakhvi who was immediately escorted by them to his Islamabad residence. “We have released Lakhvi after a member of his legal team presented the order. There has been no direction from the government (Pakistan) to either detain or release him,” said a jail official.

Earlier in the day, the Pakistan government’s legal team discussed several options to keep Lakhvi behind bars. However, it could not offer any legal ground to further detain him.  A law officer said it was difficult for Pakistan to go for the option of detaining Lakhvi again under the Maintenance of Public Order Act which had been suspended twice by the Islamabad High Court and Lahore High Court.

Lakhvi and six others have been charged with planning and executing the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people and wounded over 300. Lakhvi not only handpicked the 10 terrorists, but guided them over satellite phones from a control room during the three-day carnage.

Lakhvi, a close relative of Lashkar-e-Toiba founder and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, was arrested in December 2008 and was indicted along with the six others on November 25, 2009, in connection with the case. The trial has been underway since


The High Commission of India in Islamabad formally conveyed New Delhi’s disappointment to the Pakistan government, while Home Minister Rajnath Singh indicated that the release could once again cast a shadow over recent efforts to restart bilateral talks.

“India wants talks with Pakistan, but the present development (release of Lakhvi) is unfortunate and disappointing,” PTI quoted the home minister in a report from Lucknow.  New Delhi’s envoy to Islamabad, T C A Raghavan, met Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, A A Chaudhry, and lodged a strong protest over Pakistan government’s failure to bring Lakhvi and his accomplices to justice expeditiously.

“Our high commissioner has registered our strong concerns with the foreign secretary of Pakistan at the release of a principal accused in the Mumbai terrorist attack of 2008,” said spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin in Paris.  

“He (Raghavan) underlined that this has reinforced the perception that Pakistan has a dual policy on dealing with terrorists and those who have carried out attacks or are posing a threat to India are being dealt with differently,” Akbaruddin added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is currently in Paris for a three-day visit to France. Modi met some French lawmakers at the National Assembly of France on Friday and some of them shared India’s concern over release of Lakhvi.

The release also triggered a war of words between the ruling BJP and Opposition Congress. “It goes without saying that it is a failure of the Narendra Modi government.,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said. 

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