Pakistan does it again

Pakistan does it again

Pakistan has once again cocked a snook at India with a court releasing Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi.

Pakistan has once again cocked a snook at India with a court releasing Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi. This should surprise nobody. Like his close relative and mentor Hafeez Saeed, he is an ‘asset’ of the Pakistani establishment and will not be harmed. Hence, reports that he lives in relative luxury with access to food, visitors, television and mobile phone should also surprise nobody. India’s being ‘extremely upset” at his release is only the latest of expressions of unhappiness, to which Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit advised patience. There is no movement – a step forward is followed by two taken backward.

An important thing to note about Lakhvi’s latest release by the Islamabad High Court is the gradual lowering of the seriousness of offence and its trial. He was earlier caught on terrorism charge and tried by an anti-terrorism court. His last detention has been under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) and before that, the charge was kidnapping an Afghan national. Paradoxically, each time the Pakistani authorities have ensured that keeping him under detention is made more and more difficult and his bail becomes easier. You do not need legal experts to explain this.

His last detention was on December 18, when authorities were chastised by the terror attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 150, most of them students. Otherwise, the detention-release rigmarole is meant to fool the world opinion. It has been a fairly successful charade except that the US and the UK have at some stage lost patience and thought it necessary to say that he should be handed over to India for trial. The brazenness of all this is indicated by the fact that nine judges have been changed in the last five years and the prosecution case has been handled by many more lawyers. The delaying tactic has been all too apparent. Slogans hailing Lakhvi and other five accomplices who planned the 2008 terror attacks across Mumbai are raised in courts each time there is a bail, often on ‘errors’ in the way the prosecution pursued the case.

It should be clear that India is up against a wall, a subterfuge. So confident Pakistan is about continuing with this that six years after the terror attacks, it feels confident enough to seek a change in India’s emphasis on fighting terrorism, and asking India for bilateral talks has become more strident. With that comes the bogus charge that India is ‘interfering’ in its affairs and fomenting trouble in Baluchistan, using its offices in Afghanistan.

New Delhi has really no option but to keep the dialogue on the hold. That there was no breakthrough during the Islamabad halt of Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar’s “Saarc Yatra” is hardly surprising. The Lakhvi issue is only adding to the cynicism that prevails in Indo-Pak relations. This is how the relations have unfortunately moved and will continue to be so.

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