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Significant development?

In a latest development on Friday, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court ruled that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and six others accused in the 2008 Mumbai attack case will be individually charged for the abetment to the murder of everyone who died in the carnage. Lakhvi is chief of the LeT, which has planned and executed some of the deadliest recent terror attacks in India. Last year, he was released from a jail in Rawalpindi, provoking a strong reaction from India, which said the move proved that Pakistan goes easy on terrorists who target India. Lakhvi was arrested months after the 26/11 attacks in 2008, which saw Pakistani terrorists laying siege to Mumbai. The inordinately slow trial of Lakhvi and six others arrested for the Mumbai strike has been a recurrent point of tension between India and Pakistan. 

The lack of concrete legal action against Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi before him has frustrated India’s attempts to bring the guilty to book. Hussain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US, has written extensively on Pakistan’s double game. “The state is willing to crush jihadi groups that engage in violence against Pakistani citizens and security personnel but has no qualms about the mobilisation of jihadis that target other countries, particularly India, Afghanistan, and even the United States,” he wrote in a recent column. “The problem with this policy has been that jihadi groups do not make the distinctions made by the government and often collaborate with each other on the ground.” What makes it worse in the Indian context is that some in the Pakistani establishment are unwilling to give up on the dream of keeping the Kashmir issue alive with the help of “non-state actors” which is a euphemism for terrorists. 

In fact, on Wednesday, a senior minister in Pakistan’s Punjab province made a startling assertion along the same lines. In an interview to BBC Urdu, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the government cannot take legal action against militant groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) as the “state itself remained involved” with them. In his explosive new book, Hussain Haqqani reveals that an ex-chief of the ISI spy agency had admitted to the involvement of “some retired Pakistani Army officers” in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, who then headed Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency, made the admission to his CIA counterpart, Gen. Michael Hayden at a meeting in Washington in December 2008, according to Haqqani’s new book. 

This is not new to India, but merely another confirmation of long-held suspicions. The book follows Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Headley’s revelations in a Mumbai special court earlier this year on the 26/11 attacks. Headley confessed that he was “handled” by senior officers in Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the ISI. He also confessed to having visited terror training camps in Pakistan, during the course of which he met and interacted with LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Jamaat-Ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed. Despite these assertions, there isn’t much India can hope to achieve without concrete legal action against the accused and support from the international community. Is the Pakistani anti-terror court’s decision, a first positive step?   

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