Earlier this month, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court granted a militant commander believed to have masterminded the 2008 Mumbai attacks bail, citing a lack of evidence against him. In a surprise shift, however, instead of being released, Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi has been re-arrested under a new charge. He is now being held as authorities investigate his role in kidnapping a man and enticing him to terrorism.
Officials offered no immediate explanation for why the case was registered just as Lakhvi was to be freed on bail. His lawyer, Raja Rizwan Abbasi, denounced the new charge, calling it “fabricated and fake.”
Abbasi told CNN that Lakhvi’s detention is “very unfortunate,” and claimed that his client is being deprived of his fundamental rights because of international pressure.
Much of that pressure came from India, where more than 160 people died in the 11/26 gun and bomb attacks in Mumbai.
“We reject the contention that there is inadequate evidence to prosecute him and his fellow conspirators,” India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a statement to to the Indian legislature.
“The grant of bail to Lakhvi makes absolute mockery of the Government of Pakistan’s professed commitment to fight terror groups without hesitation and without making false distinctions,” she added.
The distinction Swaraj is no doubt referring to is one that Pakistan has long maintained between so-called “good” and “bad” militants as part of what critics see as a double-game in which more obliging terrorist networks are covertly supported to do the bidding of the state in exchange for safe haven.
“We announce that there will be no differentiation between ‘good’ and ‘bad ‘Taliban,’” Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told politicians just a day before Lakhvi was first granted bail. He further promised to “continue the war against terrorism till the last terrorist is eliminated.”
His strong words followed one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s history, which left more than 140 students and teachers dead inside of their Peshawar school.
The attack raised outrage in Pakistan, along with calls for a reinvigorated campaign to combat terrorist networks in the country — and then the alleged terrorist mastermind Lakhvi was offered a free hand.
Analysts are looking to the case against Lakhvi to measure Sharif’s reaffirmed commitment to combatting terrorism within it’s borders — and to see if he can actually win justice against a terrorist commander, even if its for a lesser charge than he was initially booked on.
“Within the state, there’s a tug-of-war,” Raza Rumi, a senior fellow with the United States Institute of Peace told ThinkProgress in a phone interview.
“This is about internal cleaning of Pakistan’s security apparatus,” he said. “The next few weeks will be decisive to show the trend: whether it’s business as usual or whether this time, the new military chief means business.”