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Lakhvi walks out from Pakistan jail, India terms it unfortunate

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Lakhvi walks out from Pakistan jail, India terms it unfortunate
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Islamabad/New Delhi: Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the prime accused in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that claimed 166 lives, was released from a jail in Pakistan early on Friday triggering strong reactions in India with the government terming the development as "unfortunate" and "disappointing".

Lakhvi was released after the Lahore High Court suspended his detention on Thursday. The Congress and BJP accused Pakistan of not being serious in fighting terrorism.

Lakhvi was released overnight from Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi without any announcement by the jail authorities or the Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD), the organisation that Lakhvi was affiliated with, Geo TV reported.

Representatives of JuD, an organisation banned in Pakistan, were present outside the prison to receive Lakhvi. He was shifted to an unspecified location after his release, the sources added.

India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed Lakhvi's release as "unfortunate" and "disappointing".

"India wants talks with Pakistan but the present development is unfortunate and disappointing," he said.

The Lahore High Court on Thursday quashed Lakhvi's detention for the fourth time, ordering him to be immediately released. Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, had moved the Lahore High Court, challenging his detention and claiming it to be unlawful.

His lawyers maintained in a petition that Lakhvi was being kept in custody despite higher courts ending his detention. The Lahore High Court also accepted Lakhvi's bail application, ordering his release on the submission of two bail bonds worth Pakistani Rs.1 million ($9,820) each.

India's external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin on Thursday said the Pakistani court's order had eroded "the value of assurances repeatedly conveyed to us with regard to cross border terrorism".

"The fact is that known terrorists not being effectively prosecuted constitutes a real security threat for India and the world," Akbaruddin said.

Last month, the Islamabad High Court had declared Lakhvi's detention illegal and ordered his release.

The Indian external affairs ministry had then summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and lodged a strong protest with him.

Hours before Lakhvi walked free on Friday, a leading Pakistani newspaper pulled up Islamabad for its failure to convict the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack. The Nation said in an editorial that the Lakhvi saga had come a full circle.

"The government has once more miserably failed at prosecuting Lakhvi," it said. "Not only has it failed, it seems like it didn't even try hard this time around.

"Lakhvi's conviction could have been the watershed moment this country needed in the struggle against extremism...."

Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh said India's position on the issue of terrorism was very clear.

"None other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the dictum 'zero tolerance towards terrorism'," he said.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra accused Pakistan of not being serious in fighting terrorism.

"Doesn't look like Pakistan is serious about combating terrorism," he said.

The Congress party questioned the intention of the Pakistan government.

"This raises questions on the intent of Pakistan government. Pakistan had been provided with enough evidence which would have led to conviction of Lakhvi," Congress leader Anand Sharma said.

Party leader R.P.N Singh said the BJP-led government should lodge a strong protest with Pakistan.

Lakhvi is among the seven people charged with planning and helping carry out the November 26, 2008, Mumbai attack that left 166 people dead. The six other men facing trial for their alleged involvement are Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Younas Anjum, Jamil Ahmed, Mazhar Iqbal and Abdul Majid.

At the time of the Mumbai atttack, Lakhvi was believed to be the operational head of the banned Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT), accused by India of carrying out the attacks in the country's financial capital.

Lakhvi and six others were indicted for the Mumbai attacks in Pakistan on the basis of evidence provided by the Indian government.

The evidence included a confession by Ajmal Kasab -- the lone terrorist captured alive and later hanged to death following a trial -- and satellite phone data recovered from a boat that the attackers had hijacked enroute from the Pakistani coastal city of Karachi to Mumbai.

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