ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A Pakistani court Monday suspended a detention order keeping the alleged planner of the Mumbai terror attacks in jail, possibly paving the way for his release, officials said.
The prospect of Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi going free presents an embarrassing turn of events for the Pakistani government, which has vowed to crack down on militancy after the Dec. 16 Taliban school attack in Peshawar that left at least 148 dead, mostly schoolchildren. It also raises the prospect of a serious political conflict with neighboring India, which has long accused Islamabad of being soft on its home-grown militants.
Lakhvi is one of seven men being tried in connection with the 2008 attack in Mumbai, India, that killed 166 people. Lakhvi is still in prison, pending the posting of his bail money, and Pakistani officials could try to fight the court's decision. India called the development "extremely disturbing," underscoring how contentious the issue remains.
The ruling came at a hearing in the capital, Islamabad, prosecutor Jahanagir Jadoon said.
Monday's developments stemmed from a Dec. 18 ruling in which the judge in a Pakistani antiterrorism court hearing Lakhvi's case granted him bail, saying there was not enough evidence to hold him.
The government immediately ordered his detention for 30 days under a law giving leeway to detain certain suspects. Lakhvi then appealed the detention order. Monday's hearing in a separate court was to hear that appeal. Judge Noorul Haq Qureshi said no grounds were provided Monday to continue Lakhvi's detention, according to Jadoon.
The judge set another hearing date for Jan. 15 and said that if the Interior Ministry provides evidence to justify Lakhvi's continued detention, he could reverse the Monday order, Jadoon said.
A spokesman for the prime minister could not be reached for comment Monday.