The decision of the Lahore High Court to release Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi from detention was not surprising considering that he had already been granted bail by an anti-terrorism court in December. The Pakistan state has, since the terror attacks in Peshawar in the same period last year, sought to convey a sudden urge to undo the earlier faux pas of granting Lakhvi bail, and contested it. Yet prosecutors failed to mount a proper case, arguing for Lakhvi’s detention only on the issue of “maintenance of public order”. Without a clear-cut case built by prosecutors on charges of engaging in terrorism, it was always a matter of when Lakhvi would be released rather than if . The Indian authorities had marshalled pages of evidence showing the role Lakhvi had played as a controller of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008. Apart from audio tapes and transcripts showing his involvement, the testimony of U.S. citizen David Headley who had done reconnaissance in Mumbai before the attacks, and confessions by the captured terrorist Ajmal Kasab were also made available to Pakistan. That these were not properly used to build a case against Lakhvi suggests the laxity and hypocrisy of the Pakistani state. The poor prosecution effort was compounded by witness and judge intimidation. The still-unsolved assassination of special prosecutor Chaudhury Zulfiqar Ali in May 2013 also affected it.
Of late, Pakistan’s state establishment has pursued a dual policy towards jihadists operating from its soil. While the security establishment has taken on extremists belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban in the country’s west, considering them “enemies of the state”, and military courts have been set up to prosecute them, the forces that had indulged in cross-border terrorism in India have been protected and treated with kid gloves. The duplicitous attitude towards terror has already hurt the country as the Peshawar attacks revealed. For years, the coziness between sections of the Pakistan security establishment and the jihadists had allowed a culture of impunity to build up in the country, leading to the death of several civilians, bomb attacks, and assassination of leaders. The hope that the return to democracy since former President and army chief Pervez Musharraf was deposed could help change the status quo and bring about greater civilian control over the security establishment, has been belied thus far. The resumption of diplomatic engagement at the highest levels has also failed to secure justice for the victims of the 26/11 atrocities. It is inevitable that the current approach toward the jihadists focussed on India will also hurt the Pakistani nation-state in the long run.