18 Dec 2014

Fury in India as Pakistan bails Mumbai terror ‘mastermind’

India reacts furiously and vows to challenge Pakistan after a court grants bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi – the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

India has reacted furiously demanding Pakistan overturn a controversial decision to grant bail to the man accused of masterminding the Mumbai terror attacks.

The decision to grant bail to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the Pakistani militant suspected of masterminding the 2008 attacks that killed 166 people, could be set free in days after an unexpected decision made in Rawalpindi on Thursday.

The court hearing – closed to the media – saw judge Kausar Abbas rule that there was “not enough evidence” to keep Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi in custody any longer.
It drew a furious response in New Delhi just days after the two countries appeared to show a sliver of solidarity in wake of Tuesday’s Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar.

India’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the country “cannot accept” Lakhvi’s bail and added that any decision to release him would “serve as a reassurance to terrorists who perpetrate heinous crimes”.

He added: “We call upon the government of Pakistan to immediately take steps to reverse this decision. There can be no selective approaches to terrorism. Given the scale of the tragedy that Pakistan itself has faced, it is incumbent on it to realize that no compromise can be made with terrorists.”

‘Timing and diplomacy’

It is the timing of the ruling that has surprised many. Pakistan is still reeling from Tuesday’s attack on an army school in Peshawar. The incident, which resulted in the deaths of 148 people including 132 children, drew international condemnation.

And in a rare show of solidarity, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif, while the country’s schools and Parliament observed a two-minute silence.

Picture: Indian soldiers attempt to quell the violence of 26 November 2008 – one of the deadliest terror attacks in the country’s history.

‘Reopening old wounds’

The 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people remain a painful wound in the India-Pakistan relationship. After years of distrust the incident brought the two countries close to war, as India considered retaliation or at least surgical strikes on Lashkar-e-Taiba training camps inside Pakistan.

Mohammad Ajmal Kasab was the first person to be convicted over the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But at the more operational level, India has long complained about the trial to bring the perpetrators to justice. Subsequently, Pakistan put seven men on trial on charges they assisted in siege, including Lakhvi, but the trial has not made any progress.

Meanwhile many across India are taking to social media to register their disdain. One user wrote: “Government must act: start by recalling Indian High Commission in Islamabad. Downgrade to consular status. Isolate Pakistan. More actions can follow.”

Another said: “All that sympathy you had from the rest of the world, Pakistan? Watch it disappear in front of your eyes.”

As Pakistan reels from the events of this week it has the sympathy of the world. But that will only last as long as there is diplomatic will to move forward. Moments like these will define whether Peshawar is a flash in the pan for solidarity or a watershed moment that will define the years ahead.