ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to replace special prosecutors in the Mumbai attacks case.
The decision has been taken following widespread criticism against the government after Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attack, was granted bail by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC).
A senior government official, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn that the government had begun the process of headhunting for special prosecutors.
According to him, the government has contacted criminal law experts and some senior lawyers with experience in the criminal proceedings.
He said India and some other countries took strong exception to granting of bail to Lakhvi, only a couple of days after the December 16 terrorist attack on Army Public School, Peshawar. This forced the government to detain Lakhvi under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO).
In November 2008 Mumbai attacks, 166 people were killed.
The Pakistani government took Lakhvi and some other suspects into custody in February 2009 for ‘facilitating’ the attacks.
Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Lakhvi and six other alleged abettors.
In August 2009, Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali was appointed special prosecutor in the case. Later, Advocate Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry was also appointed senior prosecutor.
Government has approached criminal law experts and some senior lawyers for the position
After the murder of Chaudhry Zulfiqar on May 3, 2013, the FIA handed over the job to Abuzar Hasnain Pirzada.
The prosecutors in the Mumbai attacks case were receiving threats which they kept reporting to the concerned quarters, sources said.
When contacted, senior prosecutor Azhar Chaudhry said the government could change the prosecutors. However, he expressed ignorance in this regard.
In a recent appeal filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against granting of bail to Lakhvi, the prosecutors said: “The fact remained that being the prosecution in such cases has been the most difficult job in our country for the last many years.”
It further states, “Even in this case, the prosecutors have been receiving threats on their cellphones during the proceedings which were duly conveyed to the concerned authorities. The witnesses are also not protected and were reluctant to depose against the accused persons in the given situation.”
The said appeal seeking cancellation of post-arrest bail to Lakhvi is still pending for adjudication before a division bench of the IHC.
An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Islamabad on December 18 granted bail to Lakhvi. The federal government however detained Lakhvi under the MPO.
The IHC suspended the detention order on December 26, but the Islamabad police registered a kidnapping case against Lakhvi.
The Supreme Court on January 7 restored the detention order and asked the IHC to decide the matter after hearing the federal government.
Hearing on Lakhvi’s detention IHC Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi, on Wednesday held an in-camera hearing of the petition filed by Lakhvi against his detention under the MPO.
The court resumed hearing in the open court.
However, additional attorney general Afnan Karim Kundi sought an in-camera hearing as he wanted to submit some ‘sensitive documents’ before the court.
Raja Rizwan Abbasi, Lakhvi’s counsel, on the other hand insisted on a hearing in the open court.
Justice Qureshi, however, accepted the request of Mr Kundi and went to his chamber where Mr Kundi and advocate general Islamabad Mian Abdul Rauf briefed him about the detention.
Further hearing in this matter has been adjourned till Thursday.
After the hearing, advocate Abbasi told mediapersons that further hearings in Lakhvi’s detention case will be held in the open court.