Islamabad: Once again, India's pressure pushed Pakistan to keep Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack, behind bars.
Pakistan on Saturday detained Lakhvi for 30 more days under a public security order before he could be released from jail following a court directive to set him free which evoked a strong protest from India.
"The Punjab government today issued the order of Lakhvi's detention under Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) for a period of 30 days. He will remain detained at the Adiala Jail where he is currently under custody in the Mumbai attack case," a Home Department official of the Punjab government told a news agency.
An "outraged" India had yesterday summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi to lodge a strong protest against the Islamabad High Court order to release LeT operations commander Lakhvi (believed to be a close relative of Laskhar-e-Toiba founder and Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed) and said freeing him will pose a threat which "cannot be ignored".
The Home Department official said the detention order of 55-year-old Lakhvi had been issued on the request of the Interior Ministry.
Lakhvi's lawyer, Raja Rizwan Abbasi, claimed the Punjab government had issued the order in violation of Pakistan's Constitution.
"The Punjab government has in fact committed a contempt of court by detaining Mr Lakhvi under MPO which was twice suspended by the IHC," he said, adding that he would challenge this "illegal" order in the high court on Monday.
"The Punjab government has entered in the MPO controversy to try to make the matter more complex legally," Abbasi said and expressed hope that the High Court would set aside the Punjab government's order on the first hearing.
The Adiala Jail authorities in Rawalpindi yesterday refused to release Lakhvi merely on the court's order they received through fax from his counsel and asked him to produce the certified copy of the order for his release.
"Today we were to produce a certified copy of the court's order to the jail administration for my client's release before the Punjab government intervened and detained him under an illegal order," Abbasi said.
IHC's Judge Noorul Haq Qureshi yesterday suspended the government's detention order of Lakhvi for the second time and ordered his immediate release.
"Since the government could not produce any solid evidence against the detention of Lakhvi under Maintenance of Public Order there has been no legal ground to detain him any more under that law. Lakhvi should be released immediately if he is not required in any other criminal case," a senior lawyer associated with the case quoted the court's order as saying."The federal government's law experts have given the
suggestion that the Punjab government should be requested to issue a new detention order of Lakhvi as if the federal government does so it will be tantamount to annoying the IHC straightaway," the senior lawyer said.
"Since the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had already restrained the federal government from registering any other case against Lakhvi without its prior permission, the government was left with no other option but to detain him under the security law (MPO)," the lawyer said.
The trial court (Anti-Terrorism Cout, Islamabad) in the Mumbai attack case had granted bail to Lakhvi on December 18, last year but he was detained the next day under the MPO.
However, the IHC suspended Lakhvi's detention on "weak legal ground".
Just before he was to be released from Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, Lakhvi was arrested on charges of kidnapping an Afghan national in 2009. He later got bail in the kidnapping case.
The government also challenged the IHC's order in the Supreme Court which suspended the directive. Lakhvi again challenged his detention and yesterday got relief from the court.
Reacting sharply to the order, India's Home Ministry said, "It is the responsibility of the Pakistan government to take all legal measures to ensure that Lakhvi does not come out of jail."
The US also responded to IHC's order by saying that Pakistan had promised it to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack to justice and it hoped that it would do so.
Lakhvi and six others - Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum - have been charged with planning and executing the Mumbai attack in November, 2008, that claimed 166 lives.
(With Agency inputs)