The US State Department added Malik Ishaq, the leader of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists today. Ishaq’s group, which is also a designated terrorist organization, has been linked to numerous attacks on Pakistani and US citizens over the years, and is closely tied to al Qaeda.
The State Department designation provided few details on Ishaq in today’s designation, but noted that he is “a founding member and is the current leader” of the terror group. Previous designations of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leaders have directly linked the group to al Qaeda.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is an anti-Shia terror group that has integrated with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has an extensive network in Pakistan and its members often serve as al Qaeda’s muscle for terror attacks.
The group has conducted numerous suicide and other terror attacks inside Pakistan. In particular, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is well known for carrying out sectarian terror attacks against minority Shia, Ahmadis, Sufis, and Christians in Pakistan. The group has released videos of executions of captured Shia prisoners.
Ishaq has been in and out of Pakistani custody over the past three decades. He was detained in 1997 after admitting to murdering more than 100 Pakistanis, but was subsequently released by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in July 2011. Ishaq has dodged numerous convictions by murdering and intimidating witnesses, and even once told a judge that “dead men can’t talk.” [See Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the “lack of evidence,” from Dawn, for more information on Pakistan’s inability to convict Ishaq and his intimidation of witnesses.]
Ishaq doesn’t hide his disdain for the political system in Pakistan, and he made it clear at the time of his release in 2011 that he intended to continue to wage jihad.
“We are ready to lay down lives for the honor of the companions of the Holy Prophet” Ishaq said after he was released from custody in 2011. He was met by “Kalashnikov-wielding supporters on a Land Cruiser motorcade,” Dawn reported.
Ishaq has also been accused of plotting numerous terrorist attacks while in custody, including the March 3, 2009 assault on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Ishaq would have plotted the attack and others from prison.
The Pakistani government re-arrested Ishaq in February 2013, just one month after his group had gone on a rampage in Quetta and claimed credit for a series of bombings that killed scores of Pakistanis, mostly Shia. He is thought to be still in custody.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s links to al Qaeda, Taliban
The US designated the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2003. Two of the terror group’s top leaders, Amanullah Afridi and operations chief Matiur Rehman, were added to the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in 2010.
In that designation, the Treasury Department described Afridi as “a key figure in directing terrorist-related activities of LeJ for several years” who had previously “prepared and provided suicide jackets for al Qaeda operations, trained suicide bombers and trained the assassin of Pakistani cleric Allama Hassan Turabi.” Turabi, a prominent Shia cleric, was killed in June 2006 in Karachi by a 16-year-old Bangladeshi suicide bomber.
Rehman is a top operational leader said to manage al Qaeda’s ‘Rolodex’ of fighters who have passed through training camps and safe houses. Treasury has described Rehman as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s “chief operational commander” and a “planning director” who has “worked on behalf of al Qaeda.”
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi operatives have also been implicated in attacks against US and Westerners inside Pakistan. In 2002, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi members conspired with Omar Saeed Sheikh, a senior al Qaeda leader, in the kidnapping and execution of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl [see LWJ report, New investigation into murder of Daniel Pearl released]. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was also involved in a bombing in Karachi in May 2002 that killed 16 people, including 12 French nationals, and the bombing near the US Consulate in Karachi on June 14, 2002 that killed 12 people.
In addition, Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi commanders have been killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. In February 2010, the US killed Qari Mohammad Zafar, a senior Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader as well as a leader of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam, in a drone strike in North Waziristan. Zafar was behind multiple terror attacks in Pakistan and was wanted by the US for murdering a consular official in Karachi.
Pakistan added the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to its list of terror organizations in August 2001, yet has done little to crack down on the group.