Fida Hussain Ghalvi is scared. Twelve members of his family were killed in cold blood in 1997 and the alleged killer, Malik Ishaq, has been released on bail from Kot Lakhpat jail by the Supreme Court Lahore registry on Thursday.
Ishaq, however, is no ordinary killer. He is one of the founders of the dreaded terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), key suspect in the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009 and 43 other cases in which 70 people have been killed.
He was granted bail by the apex court after the prosecution failed to prove his involvement in the case of attack on Sri Lankan cricket team.
Ishaq was acquitted in 34 out of 44 cases while in the remaining 10, including the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team, he had already been granted bail, official documents revealed.
Garlanded upon release
Sources say the release comes after Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, chief of the defunct outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan which is now known as Millat-e-Islamia/Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamat, met with Ishaq for more than two hours at Kot Lakhpat Jail. Other prisoners were not allowed to meet their families during that period.
Maulana Ludhianvi then distributed money amongst jail staff and prisoners after the meeting, sources said. He had arrived with several guards and armed men, they added.
Ishaq was greeted by scores of supporters on his release, who garlanded him and showered flower petals on him.
Shoot-out at majlis
Ishaq has been in jail since 1997 for allegedly killing 12 members of Ghalvi’s family, in addition to being allegedly involved in killing 58 other people in various incidents of sectarian violence.
“Ishaq and seven of his accomplices attacked a Shia gathering at my relative’s village in Do Kota in Mailsi tehsil, Vehari,” said Ghalvi while speaking exclusively to The Express Tribune.
“They started firing indiscriminately as soon as they entered it,” he added.
Ishaq was arrested from Faisalabad the same year and sent to Multan central jail.
‘Dead don’t talk’
Ghalvi says he and other witnesses were summoned to identify Ishaq.
“He was least disturbed when witnesses pointed him out,” said Ghalvi.
In the presence of a civil judge and jail deputy superintendent, Ishaq threatened the witnesses and said: “Dead men don’t talk.”
“Despite the threat, we refused to back down,” Ghalvi said, adding that Ishaq’s associates have unleashed a violent campaign against the witnesses and their families.
He said that Ishaq’s cohorts have also threatened judges, policemen and prosecutors.
The intimidation resulted in Ishaq being let off in 42 cases registered against him. He was granted bail in the 43rd case and only one case is now pending against him, Ghalvi said.
He added that during Ishaq’s trial, eight more people linked to witnesses were killed while he, and other witnesses, still receives death threats from Ishaq’s men.
Victim imprisoned, killer at large
“I have become almost a reclusive. I can’t even go to funerals,” Ghalvi said, adding “Sometimes I feel like a prisoner. However, the killers are at large.” Poor investigation and prosecution, and disregard of evidence contributed to Ishaq’s freedom, Ghalvi said. Fear also played a major role since Ishaq’s cohorts frightened everyone involved in the cases, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2011.