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Let chief's trial: Get on with it
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 23 - 12 - 2014

IT is still unclear why a Pakistani judge granted bail to the alleged mastermind in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, but his decision, which caused outrage in both India and many quarters in Pakistan, has rightly been blocked by government in Islamabad.
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the Pakistani head of the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), who is accused of planning the Mumbai massacres in which 165 people died, continues to be detained under a separate public order charge.
But it is hard to understand how this extraordinary bail decision last week could have been made in the first place.
Defense lawyers have apparently been saying that the judge granted Lakhvi bail because he took the view that the evidence against the accused was “deficient”.
With all due respect to the Pakistani judiciary, it was this particular judge's grasp of the issues that was deficient.
The crimes of which Lakhvi and his fellow defendants stand accused could hardly be more serious.
The brutal assault on India's commercial capital was no only designed to cause the maximum loss of life.
It also targeted relations between India and Pakistan. It was supposed to deepen Indian suspicions and wreck the cautious rapprochement between Islamabad and New Delhi that had been under way.
An anguished India moved quickly to identify those whom it believed were behind the horrific crime.
Unfortunately, Islamabad's early protests that it too was acting swiftly to bring the culprits to justice did not happen as speedily as many, including the Indians, imagined.
Pakistani police did arrest Lakhvi within days of the massacre. Early evidence against him was that he had paid the family of one of the attackers Rs150,000.
Other clues that Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the planning and execution of the atrocity continued to accumulate.
India, of course, wanted the suspects handed over, a step which proved politically impossible for Islamabad.
Instead the then government of president Asif Ali Zardari promised to bring suspects to trial as quickly as possible.
Yet it was almost a year before Lakhvi and six others were charged by a special anti-terrorism court.
Since then there has been virtually no advance. The accused have spent five years in jail without the case against them being heard.
If the judge last week was looking for a credible reason for granting bail, it would surely have been the extraordinary delay in holding the trial.
Delaying justice this long is denying justice not just to the accused but to the thousands of relatives of the victims of the Mumbai massacre.
The granting of bail was also deficient in another very important respect. The judge made his decision just hours after the savage slaughter of more than 130 school kids and teachers in Peshawar.
Less sensitive timing is hard to imagine. Perhaps he felt that he was demonstrating that the law could not be swayed by emotive public events but would take its course regardless.
But this is precisely what is not happening. The trial of these seven men, with evidence coming out in court as to what really happened on that terrible night of Nov. 26, 2008, has been too long delayed.
Endless adjournments have come about because apparently witnesses or law officers could not be present.
This crucial case is in danger of becoming a farce which would have tragic consequences for both India and Pakistan. It must be heard without any further delay.


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