Islamabad/New Delhi: A Pakistani court on Friday declared the detention orders of Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack, as illegal and ordered his immediate release, triggering strong reaction from India which summoned the Pakistan envoy in New Delhi to convey its outrage.
In a statement, India's external affairs ministry said that if a person, who is also a designated international terrorist by the United Nations, is released, it will pose a threat that cannot be ignored.
The Pakistani government had taken Lakhvi and six other suspects into custody in February 2009 over charges of "facilitating" the Mumbai terror attack and since then they were in jail.
India had earlier taken strong exception to grant of bail to Lakhvi last year, days after the December 16 terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar.
The Islamabad High Court on December 29 last year suspended the detention order but this was restored later. The court, however, on Friday declared Lakhvi's detention orders illegal and ordered his immediate release.
There was outrage in India.
The issue figured in parliament with Rajya Sabha members expressing their concern at the development, while the government accused Pakistan of not providing enough evidence against Lakhvi and demanded steps to ensure that he does not come out of jail. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party said Pakistan should take credible action against Lakhvi.
The external affairs ministry spokesperson said: "India today conveyed its outrage to Pakistan at the release of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, one of the key accused in the Mumbai terror attacks."
"This goes against Pakistan's professed commitment to combat terrorism, including its recently stated policy of not differentiating amongst terrorists."
The government summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit to the external affairs ministry in South Block and Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa, who is officiating foreign secretary as S Jaishankar is travelling with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, conveyed India's outrage.
Basit told the media later that Lakhvi's trial continues and the judicial process should be allowed to take its own course.
Lakhvi is accused of masterminding the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 in which 166 people, many of them foreigners, were killed and hundreds others wounded.
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told reporters that India has asked the Pakistani authorities to ensure that Lakhvi is not released from jail.
"All documents related to his involvement in the Mumbai attack case have not been presented in Pakistani courts. Hence the (Islamabad) court has ordered his release," he said.
"We want that the Pakistan government should take this matter seriously and take steps to ensure that he doesn't come out of jail," he added.
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nalin Kohli told IANS that Pakistan's intentions and efforts were "consistently in question when it comes to justice on the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack".
"In any case, the approach of good terrorist/bad terrorist that Pakistan practices confirms its lack of seriousness in eliminating terrorists," he said.
Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha told IANS the release of Lakhvi, the principal mastermind of 26/11 attack, "opens up a threat for India" and it is "responsibility of prosecutors to ensure that he is not released".