RAHIM YAR KHAN – The Punjab police on Friday initiated action against banned militant organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi that purportedly claimed responsibility for bombing the Hazara community in Quetta.

Police in Rahim Yar Khan arrested Ahle Sunnat wal-Jamaat Deputy Ameer Malik Muhammad Ishaq from his residence and took him to the district jail.

In Islamabad, Interior Minister Rehman Malik called on President Asif Ali Zardari and briefed him about the law and order situation prevailing in the country.

A heavy contingent of police surrounded Malik Ishaq’s residence on Airport Road before taking him into custody and shifting him to the Rahim Yar Khan district jail.

Talking to reporters on the occasion, Malik Ishaq said no leader or worker of Ahle Sunnat and Sipah-e-Sahaba, the LeJ parent group, was involved in the Quetta blast. He condemned the arrest of religious scholars, terming it a cruel act.

Ishaq said arrests on the direction of Interior Minister Rehman Malik would sabotage efforts to maintain peace. He claimed 45 workers of Ahle Sunnat were killed in the Quetta blast. He appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan and the federal government to hold a joint meeting of Shia and Ahle Sunnat leaders to find a solution to the problem.

He added they were ready to go to any forum for the sake of peace as protest was no solution to the problem. “Ahle Sunnat does not do the politics of protest. It is no time for protest in Punjab,” he said.

Reuters adds: Zafar Chattha, the district police officer in Rahim Yar Khan, said: "LeJ has accepted responsibility for the recent Quetta blast and Ishaq is its supreme commander. That's why we have arrested him and 24 other LeJ militants."

Chattha said Ishaq was being held under public order legislation and would be held at least a month while investigators interrogated him.

Ishaq was released from prison in July 2011 after spending 14 years behind bars charged with 34 counts of culpable homicide and terrorism.

He was released after the charges could not be proved - partly because of witness intimidation, officials said. Supporters showered him with rose petals when he left jail.

In an interview with Reuters last year, Ishaq said Shias were the ‘greatest infidels on earth’. At that time he said he was a leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba.

Online adds: Interior Minister Rehman Malik called on President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad and informed him that operation against the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been launched.

The interior minister briefed the president on law and order situation in the country, besides updating him about the investigation into the February 16 bombing in Quetta’s Hazara Town.

He also took the president into confidence regarding his recent Iran visit.