Islamabad, Feb 22: The leader of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) has surrendered himself to authorities, police said on Friday, a week after the banned religious outfit claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing in Quetta killing over 90 people.
Local English language newspaper Dawn quoted senior police officer Ashfaq Gujar as saying that Malik Ishaq was taken into custody from his residence at the Airport Road in Punjab's central city of Rahim Yar Khan on Friday. Gujar said Ishaq had been sent to a high-security jail for investigation.
"Lashkar-i-Jhangvi accepted responsibility for the recent Quetta blast last week and Ishaq is its supreme commander. That’s why we have arrested him and 24 other LeJ people,” said Zafar Chatta, the district police officer.
Chatta said Ishaq was being held under public order legislation and would be held at least a month while investigators interrogated him.
Speaking to reporters prior to his arrest, Ishaq said that he was the vice-president of the Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), and that he has no involvement in the Quetta bombing.
Ishaq is said to be one of the founders of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi group,said he would contest his arrest in court.
Ishaq was briefly detained last year on accusations of fanning sectarian hatred. He is also accused of masterminding an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, the paper said.
He was released from prison in July 2011 after spending 14 years behind bars after the charges could not be proved.
On Friday, Mahdi Hasan, a leader of Hazara Democratic Party, welcomed Ishaq’s arrest, but demanded the arrest of all others involved in the attacks.
More than 90 people, mostly Hazara Shias, lost their lives when a water-tanker filled was detonated in a marketplace near Quetta’s Hazara Town on February 16. It was the year’s second deadly attack on the ethnic minority following a Jan 10 bombing at a snooker club in the city killing over 100 people, also mostly Hazaras.
Both attacks were claimed by the LJ.
Ishaq’s arrest comes a day after the Pakistan Army emphatically denied it maintained any links with the banned terror outfit. “The armed forces were not in contact with any militant organisation, including Lashkar-i-Jhangvi,” ISPR chief Maj-Gen Asim Bajwa told a media briefing on Thursday.
“There is no reason to think about army’s involvement with LJ,” he said.