One of Pakistan's most notorious prisoners is living in relative luxury despite the government's protestations that it is cracking down on militants.

Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi is one of the main suspects behind the horrific 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Yet right next to the jailer's office in Rawalpindi's sprawling Adyala Jail, Lakhvi and six of his comrades have several rooms at their disposal.

They have the jailer's permission to have a television, mobile phones and access to internet, as well as dozens of visitors a day.

"He [Lakhvi] can receive any number of guests, any time of day or night, seven days a week," says one jail official.

No special permission is required, and his visitors are not even required to identify themselves to jail authorities.

This would be unthinkable anywhere else, but elements in the Pakistani establishment are known to have provided such facilities to certain jailed militant commanders who they believe they may need in future for reasons of national security.

Pakistan arrested Lakhvi on 7 December 2008, four days after he was named by Indian officials as one of the major suspects behind the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

More than 160 people were killed when 10 gunmen carried out assaults on two luxury hotels, a train station, a hospital, a Jewish cultural centre and some other targets in Mumbai.

He was reportedly arrested from a training camp of the Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which is said to have been fighting the Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Exactly six years later, he hit the headlines again when an anti-terrorism court trying him for the Mumbai killings ordered his release on bail.

Controversial decision

The ruling came barely a day after the horrendous 16 December school massacre in Peshawar, and at a time when the civil and military leadership were making a rare joint call for action against "all shades of terrorism".

Lakhvi's bail seemed to call that resolve into question.

Pakistan has long been accused of creating and nurturing religious militant groups for its geo-strategic aims in India and Afghanistan.

Though some of these groups ultimately turned against Pakistan, the country is believed to have continued to protect the factions it considers central to its security arrangements in the region.

LeT is said to be one such group.

Powerful connections

Lakhvi, 55, was born in the Okara district of Punjab - which is also the native district of Ajmal Kasab, the only gunman in the Mumbai attacks who was taken alive by the Indian security forces.

In 1990, he joined Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith (JAH), a Salafist movement funded by sources in the Middle East. Later he became a member of LeT, JAH's armed militant offshoot.

He is said to be a close relative of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, LeT's founder and current chief of Jamatud Dawa (JuD), an Islamic charity Mr Saeed founded when the Pakistani government banned LeT after the 2001 attack on Indian parliament. Many believe JuD is the civilian face of LeT.

Throughout the 1990s, Lakhvi worked at the LeT's head office near Muridke, Punjab, where JuD is also headquartered.

During this period, he was actively involved in fighting, and later planning combat missions, inside Indian administered Kashmir, according to security sources.

Courtesy BBC News