Pakistan arrests former head of banned Sunni group

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 22, 2013 15:15 hrs

Authorities on Friday arrested a founder of a banned Sunni extremist group from a town in central Pakistan, less than a week after the organization claimed responsibility for a market bombing that killed 89 Shiites.

Senior police officer Ashfaq Gujar said Malik Ishaq was arrested on government orders in the city of Rahim Yar Khan. Gujar said Ishaq had been sent to a high-security jail as he has been detained for one month under preemptive law.

Ishaq and his associates have been investigated in the past, and Ishaq himself was imprisoned for 14 years on charges, never proven, of killing Shiite Muslims. He was released in July 2011.

Ishaq is one of the founders of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a group accused of killing hundreds of Shiites, who comprise 20 percent of the population in the majority Sunni country. Most of the two groups live together peacefully, though tensions have existed for decades.

Ishaq was briefly detained last year following attacks against Shiites. His latest arrest came less than a week after a bombing at a market in the southwestern city of Quetta killed 89 Shiites.

Most victims of Saturday's bombing were Hazaras, a Shiite ethnic group that migrated to Pakistan from Afghanistan more than a century ago.

Angered over the attack, thousands of Shiites rallied in Quetta and other major cities of Pakistan, refusing to bury the victims for three days in protest and forcing authorities to launch a crackdown against Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

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.


Associated Press Writer Abdul Sattar contributed to this report from Quetta.

More from Sify: