Mumbai attacks mastermind still in jail thanks to much abused law

Lakhvi has been detained under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) at Rawalpindi's Adiala jail

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Prahlad Rao | December 19, 2014



The alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, granted bail by an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on Thursday, is still in jail thanks to a much abused law of Pakistan.

Lakhvi has been detained under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) at Rawalpindi's Adiala jail. Pakistan was forced to use MPO law after India had raised objections to the manner in which Lakhvi was granted bail even while his host country suffered its one of the worst terror attacks this week.

Pakistan is mourning the deaths of school children in Tuesday's Taliban massacre and Indian public showed solidarity with its neighbour in its grief.

Interestingly, the MPO, slapped on Lakhvi, is a dreaded and abused law in Pakistan. It has been used by almost all the martial law regimes to impose their will and spread fear.

Its origin dates back to 1960. The MPO was designed to override standard legal procedures and due process of law in situations where persons were accused of engaging in political protest or posing a threat against the colonial order.

According to the Human Rights Watch, the Pakistani government has detained over the years thousands of lawyers, political party activists, human rights defenders, students, and others without charge. Hundreds were charged under various provisions of Pakistani law, some passed through regular parliamentary procedures, others through irregular and unconstitutional procedures.

The broad and vaguely worded MPO allows the government to “arrest and detain suspected persons” for up to six months for a range of offenses “with a view to preventing any person from acting in any manner prejudicial to public safety or the maintenance of public order.”

The most feared part of the MPO is section 16. Titled ‘Dissemination of Rumors etc.,’ it prohibits speech that "causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public” or “which furthers or is likely to further any activity prejudicial to public safety or the maintenance of public order. This section has been used to curb press freedom and crush political dissent in Pakistan.

And the government of Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan had to resort to such law to detain a killer and terrorist.

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