Pakistan arrests Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq


Malik Ishaq, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, waves to throngs of supporters after he is released from custody in 2011.

Pakistani police arrested Malik Ishaq, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, at his home in Rahim Yar Khan, just one week after his terror group claimed credit for a bombing in Quetta that killed at least 90 people. Ishaq has been accused of direct involvement in numerous terrorist attacks but has never been convicted in a Pakistani court.

Pakistani police have not disclosed the reason for Ishaq’s arrest, nor how long he will be in detention. “It was not immediately clear on what charges he was arrested,” Dawn reported.

Last week, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed credit for the murder of more than 90 Pakistanis, mostly minority Shia, after detonating nearly one ton of “high-grade” explosives in the capital of Baluchistan province. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed credit for numerous terror attacks in Pakistan, and has released videos of executions of captured Shia prisoners.

Ishaq has been in the custody of the Pakistani government in the past. 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 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.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s links to al Qaeda, Taliban

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-e-Jhangvi has an extensive network in Pakistan and often serves as al Qaeda’s muscle for terror attacks. The group has conducted numerous suicide and other terror attacks inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. 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 US designated the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2003. In 2010, the US added two of the terror group’s top leaders, Amanullah Afridi and Matiur Rehman, LeJ’s operations chief, to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

The Treasury Department described Afridi as “a key figure in directing terrorist-related activities of LeJ for several years.” Afridi previously “prepared and provided suicide jackets for al Qaeda operations, trained suicide bombers and trained the assassin of Pakistani cleric Allama Hassan Turabi,” a prominent Shia cleric. Turabi 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 described Rehman as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s “chief operational commander” and a “planning director” who has “worked on behalf of al Qaeda.”

Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi commanders have also 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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Birbal Dhar says:

    I believe this is only a show to the Hazara Shias, that the authorities are clamping down on the LEJ. In reality the Pakistani authorities, with the pressure from the ISI will quietly release him, like they’ve done in the past.
    The ISI need people like the LEJ, as they are useful for them in their proxy wars against neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan and India, where recently 2 bombs were set off in the Indian city of Hyderabad, by more likely a Pakistani sponsored terrorist attack, either done by ISI agents or terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and others, who get state patronage from Pakistan.
    The bombs in Hyderabad were small, because if the ISI used bigger bombs, they would more likely to be caught by greater chances of evidence, just like they were caught out during the Mumbai attacks in 2008 and the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
    If the ISI get caught by a larger risk of evidence, then Pakistan will get international pressure to clamp down on the terrorists they support, which they would reluctantly have to do, but then release terrorists quietly like they will do with the current LEJ leader.

  • mike merlo says:

    just another facade. Probably as much to do with his own protection as it does with anything else related to his temporary stay in jail. What a joke

  • dave says:

    When he’s released this time, be prepared for the Target of Opportunity shown in the photo!
    Then put the Big Stuff on the funeral parade.

  • Charles says:

    Blood in the Water?

    February 23, 2013

    At a recent Brookings Institution event, Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow there, offered some cogent observations about how the jihadis view the drawdown in Afghanistan.

    He said:

    Part of it I think is simply this: the smell of blood in the water. There is a perception in Pakistan, and a perception in Afghanistan, that the United States is about to cut and run, that we are about to dump this problem. And with that perception is the perception that the jihad is on the verge of its greatest victory ever, that the defeat of the Soviet Union was one thing, the defeat of America is something even bigger, and that in the aftermath of that we can go on to other conflicts, and that we –(meaning the jihadis)—can take over and hijack the state of Pakistan. Now I think a lot of this is far-fetched. I think it’s fantastical, but it doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what people who are willing to blow themselves up and kill other people think, and they seem to think this. Which is why, as painful as it is, I think that the President has embarked on the right project in Afghanistan, which is to depart in a prudent, cautious, and careful way–and not to just cut and run” (emphasis added).

    According to the New York Times, “The United States currently has about 66,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan. NATO and other coalition nations have about 37,000 troops.”

    “President Obama has announced that 34,000 United States troops will be removed by February 2014.”


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