The two factions of banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) - Naeem Bukhari’s and Asif Chohto’s - operating in Karachi have suffered major setbacks in the last two weeks with the reported arrest of their top leadership in the city.
After the Crime Investigation Department’s Anti-Extremist Cell arrested Chohto’s LeJ Karachi chief on October 5, the department claimed that Bukhari’s LeJ Sindh chief, Hafiz Qasim Rasheed alias Ganja, was arrested on Wednesday.
The department’s Additional IG Ghulam Shabbir Shaikh told the media at a press conference on Wednesday that Rasheed was arrested after a brief encounter at Patel Para, Jamshed Quarters. A hand grenade, Kalashnikov, pistol and a hit-list were found in his possession.
The high-profile target killing suspect has reportedly carried out more than 100 murders, including the assassination of Muttahida Qaumi Movement MPA Raza Haider.
“The arrest of two ringleaders heading sectarian killings in the city will bring down the death toll,” said Shaikh. “When the leaders are in police custody, the network suffers a setback. But we still need to arrest their accomplices.”
The hit list
According to the AIG, the LeJ Pakistan chief Bukhari had given new targets to Rasheed, which included media personnel, leaders and scholars of political and religious parties, lawyers, doctors, engineers, police officers and police informers. “All the target killings by Rasheed were sectarian,” explained Shaikh. “He killed the police officials because they created problems for his family when they came to visit him in jail.”
Rasheed has been arrested twice before but was released due to lack of evidence.
Replying to a question, Shaikh said that the number of killings since 2007 has increased massively. “Terrorists don’t carry the fear of death or punishment with them for a number of reasons.” Referring to the death penalty he said, “No executions have taken place since 2007 which lets the criminals think they can get off the hook. Also, the fact that witnesses seldom appear in court to testify against target killers, has provided them courage.”
Shaikh was hopeful that the witness protection programme would be complete by next year.
He added that the CID network has been enhanced to detain the suicide bombers who have recently entered the city.
Meeting the media
Police brought Rasheed, with his face covered, in front of the media. After stating his name and his link with the banned LeJ, Rasheed answered questions. “Till the time our religion and Prophet (PBUH) are disrespected and the government does not play its role, people like us will be born,” said the LeJ member. “Blood is the answer to blood - when the Ahle Tasheeh stops killing our people, we will also stop.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2012.