Malik Ishaq, the leader of banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been released by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi because of lack of evidence to prove that he made hate speeches on three different occasions to stir religious sentiments. The speeches from the archives of any media house could have served the purpose though. The prosecutors’ ignoring this crucial evidence suggests that the relationship between the Punjab government and the militant groups in Punjab is much deeper than what meets the eye. So far, Punjab is a far safer province as compared to other provinces in the country. The Punjab government had gone as far as pleading with the Taliban in its previous tenure to spare the province for the similarities of ideology both of them share. What ideology Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was talking about was not made clear. The question persists and the more it is parsed the further the suspicion gets stronger that the militants in Punjab enjoy the backing of the Punjab government. The fear does lurk that once this nexus breaks, Punjab perhaps would be the worst hit.
Malik Ishaq had been booked for orchestrating the killing of the Hazars Shia community in Quetta in January 2013. Ninety people died and several were injured in the massacre. Laskher-e-Jhangvi, spearheaded by Malik Ishaq, accepted responsibility for the brutal attack. Malik Ishaq was immediately arrested, on the insistence of the Hazara community, who refused to bury their dead ones unless the main culprit was caught and punished. The incarceration did not last long and Malik Ishaq was soon released. According to reports, Malik Ishaq was required by the Punjab government to mediate between the militants and the Punjab government. Malik Ishaq had served 14 years in jail and had masterminded the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team from jail in 2009.
The same pattern of leniency was witnessed during the general elections, where the process of scrutiny for the religious candidates was different from other candidates. If it was not for the Supreme Court, we would have had Ahmad Ludhianvi sitting in the National Assembly by now. Being the runner-up, he had almost convinced the Election Tribunal in Faisalabad to consider him the victorious candidate for NA-89 after the election of Sheikh Muhammad Akram was declared void by the Tribunal.
From what Pakistan has become today, the government has to realise that the policy of cultivating religious fanatics as an aide to bolster the state’s power has come home to roost. The survival of the state lies in getting rid of them. *