NEW DELHI/ ISLAMABAD:
A senior Indian diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Office on Friday to lodge a strong protest over ‘unnecessary hype’ created by New Delhi over the release of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
The Islamabad High Court declared the detention of Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror siege, under the maintenance of public order as void and ordered his release. Soon after the ruling, India’s external affairs ministry
summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi Abdul Basit to convey its objection over Lakhvi’s release.
However, a senior Foreign Office official in a background briefing to reporters dismissed India’s reaction, saying India’s deputy high commissioner was summoned to the Foreign Office and was informed that New Delhi’s reaction was unnecessary. “We have conveyed our concerns that the Indian reaction is unwarranted and immature,” he added.
According to the official, the Indian deputy high commissioner was told that Lakhvi’s release did not mean end of the Mumbai trial. “India should not make irrational demands such as interfering in the judicial process. Let the law take its course,” he added.
The official pointed out that the trial of the Mumbai suspects, including Lakhvi, was still under way and India must not pass judgment before the final verdict.
Pakistan also conveyed its concerns over why New Delhi summoned Abdul Basit. “We also call ambassadors but it is done quietly. While the Indian external affairs ministry called our ambassador for a meeting at the same time they leaked it to the media,” the official added. “India’s attitude suggests it wants to whip up anti-Pakistan sentiments.”
While drawing comparison between the 2007 Samjhauta train bombing and the Mumbai assault, the official said Pakistan never reacted when Indian courts granted bail to the mastermind of Samjhauta bombing, although he confessed to his involvement. Unlike the Mumbai attack case, there is ample evidence available in the Samjhauta train attack, yet Indian authorities are reluctant to start the trial.
He maintained that India’s reluctance to start trial of Samjhauta was attributed to the fact that it might implicate Indian defence establishment as well as Hindu hardliners.
The official strongly dismissed the impression that Pakistani persecutors did not forcefully present evidence against Lakhvi and other accused in the case. “The fact of the matter is that we not only presented evidence provided by India but also asked them to give more to strengthen our case,” he disclosed.
Unfortunately, the official stated, the delay in the trial was due to India, which obliterated all relevant evidence before engaging with Pakistan.
Earlier in the day a spokesperson for India’s external affairs 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, he added. “If such a person, who is also a designated international terrorist by the United Nations, is released, it will pose a threat that cannot be ignored.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2015.