The scourge of Pakistan’s Shia community, Malik Ishaq of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) — an offshoot of ‘renamed’ Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which is in a legal penumbra of state ban — has been arrested upon his return from Saudi Arabia, where he could have gone to perform a religious ritual but could also have touched base there with the ‘donors’ who finance the massacre of the Shia in Pakistan. The charges against him of hate speech followed by sectarian killings are quite serious. He was acquitted of the same category last year and let out of jail after remaining there for 14 years.
He was wanted in connection with a case at a housing colony under Section 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The speech was against the Shia sect in Kamahan village on August 9 and he had avoided arrest by going underground. He had done this in many places in the country; in Chiniot, an incident of firing on a mosque followed a speech by Ishaq.
Police officers don’t want to be named when they offer information about Ishaq, even the bit about Ishaq leaving the country without informing the police — in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Clearly, the officers are scared of getting killed by SSP activists as well as the state hierarchy, which is alleged to have a ‘special relationship’ with him as a warrior of the sectarian organisations based in Punjab. One officer let it be known that “Ishaq had remained in touch with a couple of provincial ministers”. The man was involved in over 40 cases relating to sectarianism and terrorism in which 70 people, most of them Shias, were killed.
He is now being reported as a member of the SSP, probably to remove him from the heat produced by a recent video released by his LeJ gang announcing that almost all of the Shia killed so far in the length and breadth of the country were its victims. The LeJ proudly claims affiliation with the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar — who the world says is living in Karachi — and al Qaeda, whose Egyptian leader Aiman al Zawahiri the world suspects could also be living somewhere in Pakistan. This means Ishaq is a part of the elements that have blown Pakistan’s internal sovereignty to smithereens and could be ruling the streets of Karachi.
In February 2012, a spokesperson for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), Yahya Mujahid, told this newspaper that Ishaq was present on the stage of a Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) rally in Multan. An ex-ISI boss, Hamid Gul, who attended the rally denied that Ishaq was present on the occasion and charged that a photo revealing the truth was actually a ‘doctored one’. The DPC held long marches at great expense to the JuD’s chief Hafiz Saeed — with American bounty on him — to protest against the reopening of the Nato supply route and was rumoured to be supported by elements within the ‘deep state’. After the final retirement of ISI chief General Shuja Pasha and after the excessively threatening posture of the non-state actors in the DPC, the policy of fielding the extremists was modified, throwing the DPC in an eclipse which could actually be a lull before a big terminal storm in luckless Pakistan.
Malik Ishaq is today the symbol of the state’s surrender to terrorists. He has re-embraced the SSP because it represents one of the centres of power spawned by the state policy of proxy jihad. Provincial governments are vying with one another to reach a modus vivendi with these power centres to save their politicians from being assassinated. In Punjab, where such a new ‘relationship’ has been set up to ‘sanitise’ the elections in south Punjab, police chiefs are in the habit of blaming terrorism committed by these centres of power on Israel and India. Malik Ishaq is a challenge to Pakistan’s sovereignty that Pakistan may be reluctant to face.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2012.