A Pakistani court has granted bail to one of the alleged masterminds of the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai, days after the massacre of 162 people, mostly children, at an army school in Pakistan's Peshawar city.
The decision on Thursday to grant bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi drew quick condemnation from India and is likely to hinder attempts to patch up relations between the two countries.
Lakhvi was arrested in Pakistan in 2009 in connection with the series of attacks across the Indian financial capital. The 2008 attacks left at least 166 people dead and more than 300 others injured.
"Yes, the court has issued Lakhvi's bail orders today, against a surety amount of one million rupees ($10,000)," defence lawyer Rizwan Abbasi told the Reuters news agency.
"Hopefully, he will be out on Monday or Tuesday."
The carnage, one of India's worst in recent years, was blamed on the banned Pakistani armed group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). During the 60-hour rampage, a group of gunmen attacked luxury hotels, a popular cafe, a train station and a Jewish centre.
The sole surviving gunman, Ajmal Kasab who has since been executed, had identified Lakhvi as the mastermind. Since then, Lakhvi has been held in jail in the city of Rawalpindi.
India's Interior Minister Rajnath Singh said bail to Lakhvi was "unfortunate".
"I think it shouldn't have happened. I believe that all the evidences that have been provided by the Indian government are enough to convict Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and the Pakistan government should appeal against this in the upper court as soon as possible," Singh said in New Delhi.
India's foreign ministry spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin, said New Delhi calls upon the government of Pakistan to take steps to reverse the decision.
On his twitter account, he said:
Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Pakistan, said the case proceedings had been slow since the lead judge on the case opted out earlier this year, citing security reasons.
"Then came this surprise [the court decision]. The federal investigation agency prosecutors objected. However, Lakhvi's lawyers were able to get him bail," he said.
"The Pakistani government has not reacted yet because this is a country in mourning."
Prosecutors could challenge the ruling, one said.
"After reading through the detailed order, we will be in a position to decide if we are going to challenge the court's decision," said prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar.
The court's decision came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to crack down on "terror groups" in the wake of the school carnage.
Sharif said that a six-year moratorium on the death penalty would be lifted for those convicted of terror offences.
The horror of the Mumbai carnage played out on live television around the world, as Indian commandos battled the gunmen. Since the attacks, New Delhi said there was evidence that "official agencies" in Pakistan were involved in plotting the attack.
Islamabad denies the charge but LeT's charitable arm Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) operates openly in the country. Moreover, LeT founder Hafiz Saeed is based in Pakistan and regularly appears on TV and addresses large public gatherings of his followers.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies