We are ready to lay down lives (jaan bhee hazir hai) for the honour of the companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq said after he was freed from jail amid Kalashnikov-wielding supporters on a Land Cruiser motorcade. He did not specify whose lives he was talking about. But the Shia know.
The influential co-founder of a Sipah-e-Sahaba breakaway group now linked with al Qaeda and the Taliban received a stipend from the Punjab government while he was in jail, and like other key terror suspects, was allowed to use a mobile phone.
Malik Ishaq had told an Urdu daily in October 1997 that he was involved in the killing of 102 people. He was arrested the same year, and eventually charged with 70 of those murders in 44 different cases, including the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009. Last week, the Supreme Court released him because of “lack of evidence”.
Among those who fear the consequences is Fida Hussain Ghalvi, a key witness in a case in which Ishaq was accused of killing 12 members of a Shia family during a Majlis in 1997. When Ghalvi and three other men identified Ishaq, he told them in front of a judge that “dead men can’t talk”. Five witnesses and three of their relatives were killed during the trial. Ishaq was acquitted because of “lack of evidence”.