Friday, March 13, 2015

7 things you should know about Zakiur Rahman Lakhwi

By Omar R Quraishi

1. The suspected mastermind of the Mumbai attacks is said to be 53 years old and was born in the Punjab city of Okara, close to Lahore.

2. Lakhvi, whose release was ordered by the Islamabad High Court earlier this morning (after it cancelled a detention order issued by the Islamabad local administration), was arrested in December 2008, along with 11 other LeT's activists. They were detained during a raid at an LeT facility near Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The formal announcement of his arrest was not made a couple of months later in February 2009 by the then interior minister Rahman Malik.

3. While he has always denied any involvement in the Mumbai attacks, Lakhwi has been a proponent of sending fidayeen squads to Indian-held Kashmir. Addressing an annual congregation of the Markaz ad-Dawa wal Irshad, he said that Pakistan's withdrawal from Kargil had disappointed Kashmiris and had allowed India to present a picture as if it had emerged victorious. That was all the more reason, he said, that fidayeen squads needed to be sent to Indian-held Kashmir. He also quoted figures to the congregation citing cases where such squads had carried out targeted actions.

4. It was not until November of 2009 when Lakhwi and six of his LeT associated were formally charged by a Pakistani court for involvement in the Mumbai attacks. However, in over 5 years since then, the case has moved at a snail's pace. The government has had to appoint two more special prosecutors after the first one dealing with the case, Chaudhry Zulfiqar, was shot dead in Islamabad in May 2013. Chaudhry Zulfiqar was also dealing with the Benazir Bhutto assassination case as special prosecutor when he was killed. Currently, the special prosecutors include Abuzar Pirzada and Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry. Misbahul Hassan Qazi's appointment as the third special prosecutor was okayed this month by the interior ministry. 

5. The FIR (First Information Report) in the case against Lakhwi and six other accused was drawn up and filed by the Special Investigation Unit of Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency. However, the special prosecutors say that they find the case tough since they have repeatedly received threatening calls on their mobile phones and because the witnesses who have to depose against the LeT members have never been provided any protection by the state. 

6. The case of the seven suspects in the Mumbai attacks, being heard by a magistrate in Islamabad, has proceeded at a snail's pace. The past several hearings were all adjourned, because the case record had been sent to the Islamabad High Court to decide on Lakhwi's detention, which it did this morning. At the last hearing, a witness by the name of Mumtaz told the magistrate that there was an LeT training centre at Mirpur Sakro in the province of Sindh close to the sea from where the Mumbai attackers were alleged to have left for Mumbai by sea in a boat.

7. Now that Lakhwi has been ordered released, the original case against the seven suspects (one of whom is Lakhwi) remains in doubt given that the Islamabad High Court's release order is based on the premise that there is no case against Lakhwi.