July 30, 2015
Police officials and security experts fear that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the other terrorist groups affiliated with it including the Taliban and al Qaeda might target the Shia community and law enforcement officials in Karachi to avenge the killing of its chief Malik Ishaq and other leaders in a shootout with police in Muzaffargarh on Wednesday.
Ishaq and 13 other LeJ militants – including his two sons and a key leader Qari Ghulam Rasool – were killed when some terrorists attacked a police convoy to free Ishaq and othr LeJ leaders while they were bring shifted.
Police said some of the attackers Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan terrorists. Dozens of murder cases of people belonging to the Shia community were registered against Ishaq. He had spent over 15 years in jails.
Impact in Karachi
A section of police officials and security experts believe that Ishaq’s killing would exacerbate the sectarian strife in the country, particularly in Karachi.
After the Muzaffargarh incident, there is a high alert in Karachi fearing retaliatory attacks.
A senior police officer said the LeJ and its affiliates might target the Shia community, police, government officials and leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the city.
“The law enforcement agencies have requested the Shia community to temporarily suspend or minimise their activities,” he told The News.
Muhammad Amir Rana, the director of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, believes that Karachi is among the four hotspots for an outbreak of sectarian violence in the country.
The PIPS’ annual security report discloses that most sectarian killings in the country last year occurred in Karachi. Around 100 people were killed and 65 injured in 84 sectarian attacks in the city in 2014.
“Ishaq’s influence was mainly in Punjab but the LeJ’s affiliates are active in Karachi and might retaliate in response to his killing,” Rana told The News.
He added that Ishaq’s killing was being seen as a major step towards curbing killings on sectarian grounds.
LeJ in Karachi
The LeJ is an anti-Shia terrorist group that has integrated with al Qaeda and Taliban groups. Police officers and well-informed sources say that the LeJ in Karachi has divided into two factions in terms of its organisational structure.
One faction is called the Ataur Rehman Naeem Bukhari faction that works in collaboration with the TTP in the city.
Its Karachi chief, Hafiz Qasim Rasheed, was arrested a few years ago.
The other group is called the Asif Chotoo group whose chief in the city, Gul Hasan, a resident of Lyari, was killed in a police encounter in November 2013 in Mauripur.
Hasan was behind the suicide attacks on Hyderi mosque, Imambargah Ali Raza and former Sindh High Court chief justice Maqbool Baqir.
Also, there are little-known cells of the LeJ that it forms on a temporary basis for carrying out specific activities including killing Shia professionals or religious leaders.
The law enforcement agencies have discovered many of such cells including al Mukhtar group, the Punjabi Taliban and the Kharooj in their crackdown on the LeJ in the city.
On July 13, the Karachi police had made a major breakthrough in over two dozen cases of sectarian-based killings in the city by arresting a key member of the LeJ.