A few days after the premiers of India and Pakistan released a joint statement in Ufa, Russia – heralded by many as a breakthrough in the otherwise strained relations – Zakiur-Rehman Lakhvi’s lawyer, Rizwan Abbasi has said that his client refuses to cooperate by giving voice samples; a key element of the joint statement. Resistance from Lakhvi was to be expected, yet the statements of Chaudhry Azhar, part of the prosecuting team, saying that getting them is unlikely as no legal provision for it exists is far more damaging. Already the indignation has started pouring from the other side of the border at this “U-turn”, and is damaging whatever little goodwill was created. The spectacular failure of the courts in trying Lakhvi has already been a source of criticism. The failure to comply with the Prime Minister’s express assurances at an international stage will be nothing short of a national embarrassment.

Previous failures – condemnable as they are – can be put down to a weak judicial system and a hesitant prosecution, crippled by the ever-present threat posed by extremists. Previous assurances by Pakistani authorities of an expedited trial have also been generalised, and made at diplomatic level. The Prime Minister’s present statement is categorical, and any failure to follow these commitments will only be viewed as an admission of bias. Lakhavi’s trail has already shown that he has friends in powerful places. It would be a hefty blow to the nation’s new anti-extremism narrative if those powerful friends mange to defy the highest executive authority.

Syed Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, has been quick to put a damper on escalating criticism, saying that Pakistan will remain firm on its commitments and will not “embarrass our friends”. While reassuring to hear, similar statements have been made – and disregarded before. The Prime Minister has taken it upon himself to repair relations with India, now he must see it through- the first step is the Lakhvi trial.