Finally, as public pressure continues to mount over the killings of Shia in the country, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Malik Ishaq, has been detained for one month at the Rahim Yar Khan jail. Previously, he had been held at his own home. It is unknown on what charges Ishaq has been held but it should be noted that at least two FIRs exist against him in Khanewal district. Before this, the leader of the extremist group had been held in jail for prolonged periods only to be released on court orders due to lack of proof. This time, too, Ishaq, at a press conference before his arrest, stated that the LeJ had nothing to do with recent attacks on Shias, including the ones in Quetta (despite the fact that following both, the group claimed responsibility for them) and that he would be “willing to go to any forum to ensure peace in the country”.
The action against the LeJ leader has come late; but the fact that it has happened is possibly a good omen. The question now is whether it will be possible to hold him for any length of time in keeping with the gravity of crimes committed by his group over the years. The fact that the LeJ has, according to reports, split into various factions, adds to the complications surrounding the whole affair. Although there is no doubt in most people’s minds that Ishaq is behind many attacks, it is hard to say precisely who is giving the orders in Quetta, with Usman Saifullah Kurd repeatedly named as the man behind the Hazara massacres.
However, it is clear we need some kind of action. The capture of Ishaq is, therefore, welcome. It coincides with an operation in Quetta in which two LeJ activists were killed and four arrested. It seems obvious that we need to go after all these groups with as much force as we can muster. The need, however, is also to have reliable police investigations so that evidence against them can be presented, the due process of law followed and those arrested not allowed to walk free this time as has happened more than once in the past. This is, of course, one reason for the continued sectarian violence we face across the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2013.