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Photo shows Malik Ishaq, the leader of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ).—File Photo

RAHIMYAR KHAN: The head of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) has been detained by authorities for one month, police said on Friday, a week after the banned religious outfit claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing in Quetta killing over 90 people.

Malik Ishaq was detained at his residence in the central city of Rahim Yar Khan and taken to the local jail.

“Ishaq has been detained under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) law on the orders of the Punjab provincial government,” said senior police official in Rahim Yar Khan, Tanveer Ahmad.

A spokesman for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in Punjab, Pervaiz Rasheed, confirmed the news and said Ishaq would be held for one month.

“There were complaints against him, that he had been making provocative speeches in the past month,” he said.

Speaking to reporters prior to his arrest, Ishaq denied any involvement in the Quetta bombing or any such incident. He said he would contest his arrest in court.

Ishaq is said to be one of the founders of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi group, which is accused of sectarian violence and has claimed several attacks on the ethnic Hazara Shia population in Balochistan.

Ishaq was briefly detained last year on accusations of fanning sectarian hatred. He is also accused of masterminding an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009.

According to police records, Ishaq was involved in more than 40 cases relating to sectarianism and terrorism in which 70 people, most of them Shias, were killed.

He was released from prison in July 2011 after spending 14 years behind bars after the charges could not be proved.

On Friday, Mahdi Hasan, a leader of Hazara Democratic Party, welcomed Ishaq’s arrest, but demanded the arrest of all others involved in the attacks.

More than 90 people, mostly Hazara Shias, lost their lives when a water-tanker filled was detonated in a marketplace near Quetta’s Hazara Town on Feb 16. It was the year’s second deadly attack on the ethnic minority following a Jan 10 bombing at a snooker club in the city killing over 100 people, also mostly Hazaras.

Both attacks were claimed by the LJ.

Ishaq’s arrest comes a day after the Pakistan Army emphatically denied it maintained any links with the banned terror outfit. “The armed forces were not in contact with any militant organisation, including Lashkar-i-Jhangvi,” ISPR chief Maj-Gen Asim Bajwa told a media briefing on Thursday.

“There is no reason to think about army’s involvement with LJ,” the Dawn newspaper quoted Gen Bajwa as saying.

Human rights organisations have accused the army and its intelligence agencies of maintaining links with Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.

The allegations stem from the army using Ishaq for negotiating with the terrorists who had attacked the military headquarters in October 2009. Ishaq’s subsequent release from jail was sceptically seen as a deal. The escape of LJ’s operational commander in Balochistan, Usman Saifullah Kurd, in 2008 from a detention facility in the military Cantonment in Quetta has also raised questions.

Malik Irfan contributed to reporting from Rahim Yar Khan.