KARACHI: Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Monday accused the Punjab government of striking a deal with the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which he alleged was carrying out terrorist activities in Quetta and Karachi, but not in the Punjab — the country’s most populated province.
“I ask the Punjab government that if it’s not supporting and patronizing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, why these terrorists are not carrying out terrorist activities in the Punjab despite having their headquarters there,” Malik said while talking to media persons at the Aga Khan University Hospital Karachi (AKUH) where he met the victims of Abbas Town bombing.
“Don’t Shias live in the Punjab?” he questioned. Malik claimed he had forewarned a week ago that Shias in Karachi would be targeted following which security was beefed up. But he admitted it was not enough to prevent the latest atrocity committed by the terrorists.
Blaming the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for most terrorist activities in the country, Malik said the LeJ and Punjabi Taliban remained the two sides of the same coin. “Had the Punjab government initiated action against it, over 90 percent of terrorist incidents could have been prevented,” he added. “I gave a list of 734 LeJ militants to the Punjab government and put their names in the Fourth Schedule, but due to political reasons the Punjab government is reluctant to take action against them.”
He urged the entire nation to get united and force the Punjab government to take action against the LeJ and its associates. “The LeJ chief Malik Ishaq has been put under house arrest only after people put pressure on the Punjab government,” he added.
“Pervez Rasheed, I know that you people are afraid of them (LeJ) and are supporting them,” the interior minister said. “If you are not supporting and patronising them, then tell me why Malik Ishaq’s younger brother withdrew his nomination papers against Shahbaz Sharif in the by-polls,” he asked.
He said Malik Ishaq was the LeJ chief and there were 34 cases registered against him, but until recently he remained free to operate from his home. The minister alleged that the LeJ headquarters and most of terrorists were active in the Punjab.
Asked as to why the federal government was not taking action against terrorists despite knowing them, he claimed law and order had become a provincial subject after the 18th Amendment.
The minister said law enforcement agencies were likely to arrest the terrorists responsible for the Karachi blasts soon, as they had apprehended terrorists responsible for the Quetta blasts and killed four of them.
“The police and other agencies have been given 48 hours to arrest the masterminds and perpetrators of Sunday’s bomb blasts,” he added. “I have ordered an action against the LeJ in Karachi and asked the authorities to remove all their flags and banners,” he said.
Replying to a question, he claimed the law and order situation in the country was normal except for Karachi, Quetta and a few areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Lauding the Shia community, he said their leadership had shown restraint against the backdrop of terrorist activities to foil attempts to spark sectarian violence in the country. He said the LeJ and its associates had stated that they would not let elections happen in the country and that’s why they had increased their terrorist activities.“There are 3-4 main people of the LeJ and as soon as we reach them and put them behind bars, we will be able to control this wave of violence.”
He said when the Supreme Court took suo moto notice of Hazara Town blasts in Quetta, he had requested the apex court to summon Shahbaz Sharif, Malik Ishaq and senior police and intelligence officials, who would tell the court that who was patronising the terrorists and why.
Earlier, he visited wounded patients of the Abbas Town blast at AKUH and inquired after the injured and talked to their attendants.