Malik Ishaq, the chief of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), who has been set free on bail after 14 years in prison, wielded clout even in jail and was specially flown to Rawalpindi by army in October 2009 to negotiate with the 'fidayeen' attackers who had stormed its headquarters.
Ishaq, the founding member of LeJ, was flown from a Lahore jail to the garrison town of Rawalpindi on October 10, 2009 by the military authorities in a chartered flight to buy time with attackers.
The terrorist leader, who himself admitted to a Urdu daily in October 1997 that he had been "instrumental in the killing of 102 people", was engaged by military after the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan 'fidayeen' attackers, who were strapped with suicide jackets, took 42 people hostage, including many security personnel, The News reported on Saturday.
The attackers had put forth a list of demands and threatened to kill hostages. However, as a time-buying tactic, the negotiators decided to rope in some key leaders of several 'jehadi' and sectarian groups to hold talks with terrorists.
"Special planes were subsequently flown to Lahore, Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan to bring to Rawalpindi Malik Ishaq, a key leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, the chief of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil, the ameer of Harkatul Mujahideen and Mufti Abdul Rauf, the younger brother of Maulana Masood Azhar who is also the acting ameer of Jaish-e-Mohammad," the report said.
Interestingly, all the four jehadi leaders who were engaged by the military authorities to hold talks with the GHQ hostage takers had earlier been roped in by the Musharraf regime in July 2007 to negotiate with the fanatic clerics of the infamous Lal Mosque in the heart of Islamabad.
Ishaq was released yesterday from jail, greeted by hundreds of followers who showered rose petals on him, after he was given bail by the Supreme Court in the last case against him alleging his involvement in the Sri Lankan cricket team attack, "due to lack of evidence and (the) weak case of the prosecution".
Ishaq was arrested in 1997 for involvement in sectarian murders - almost all of his victims were members of the minority Shia community.
He was charged with murder of 70 people in 44 different cases but escaped conviction in each case due to "lack of evidence".
Launched in 1996 as a Sunni sectarian group, LeJ today has deep links with al-Qaeda and Taliban and is considered the most violent terrorist group operating in Pakistan with the help of its lethal suicide squad, the daily said.
As with most Sunni sectarian and militant groups, almost the entire LeJ leadership is made of people who have fought in Afghanistan and most of its cadre strength has been drawn from the numerous Sunni madrassas in Pakistan.