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PAKISTAN: Militant leader back behind bars

September 28, 2011 |  7:51 am

Pakistani militant Malik Ishaq was a suspect in the 2009 attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Lahore
REPORTING FROM ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- A founder of one of Pakistan's most notorious Islamic militant groups is back behind bars, two months after the country's Supreme Court ruled that there wasn't enough evidence to hold him and set him free.

Malik Ishaq, a leader of the banned Sunni extremist organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was arrested late Tuesday at his home in the southern Punjab city of Rahim Yar Khan because authorities believed he had been inciting violence against Shiite Muslims in recent speeches, said a senior police official. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on such matters, did not say whether Ishaq had been formally charged.

Before his court-ordered release in July, Ishaq had spent 14 years in jail after being implicated in dozens of killings, many of them targeting members of Pakistan's minority Shiite community. Shiites in Pakistan are routinely targeted by sectarian extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which regard them as heretics. About 15% of Pakistan's population is Shiite Muslim, while the majority is Sunni Muslim.

Ishaq was also accused of helping engineer the 2009 attack on a Sri Lankan cricket team in the eastern city of Lahore. Seven people died in that attack.

Ishaq was originally released on bail after the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to continue detaining him. Pakistani courts routinely release militants charged in terrorism cases, often because of shoddy police work or because witnesses refuse to appear in court or were slain beforehand.

Pakistan lacks any kind of program to safeguard witnesses in terrorism cases. In many other cases, investigators eager to get terrorism investigations off their desks frame Pakistanis on trumped-up charges. More often than not, judges see through the frame-ups and acquit the defendants.

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-- Alex Rodriguez

Photo: Pakistani militant Malik Ishaq was a suspect in the March 3, 2009, attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan, by gunmen shown in this photo taken from television coverage. Credit: Associated Press

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