Pakistan reaps what it has sown for decades. And the response from Washington? Send them more money — money that will almost certainly end up in the hands of people like Malik Ishaq. “70 Murders, Yet Close to Going Free in Pakistan,” by Sabrina Tavernise and Waqar Gillani in the New York Times, August 5 (thanks to Bill):
MULTAN, Pakistan “” It has been 12 years since Fida Hussein Ghalvi testified against the militant who was charged with killing 12 members of his family. But some days he feels as if he were the one who ended up in jail. He still gets threats, his servants all quit and an armed guard is posted at his gate.
Most maddening is the fact that the militant “” Malik Ishaq, one of the founders of the country”s most vicious sectarian group, whose police record has a dizzying tally of at least 70 murders “” has never had a conviction that stuck.
In Pakistan, the weakness of the state is matched only by the strength of its criminals. When Mr. Ishaq was arrested in 1997, he unleashed his broad network against his opponents, killing witnesses, threatening judges and intimidating the police, leading nearly all of the prosecutions against him to collapse eventually.
Now, with the cases against him mostly exhausted, Mr. Ishaq, 50, jihadi hero and leader of the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, could be out on bail as early as this month. That prospect terrifies Mr. Ghalvi, whose world has shrunk to the size of his house in this central Pakistani city….
What is more, the country”s intelligence agencies have a long history of nurturing militants as proxy forces over the heads of the police. Few civilian victims, judges or even police officials dare to buck what Pakistanis take for granted as an untouchable network of support.
Such was the case with Hafiz Saeed, a cleric who was freed from house arrest in June, despite abundant evidence that his group was behind the attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed more than 160 people last year.
Mr. Ishaq is no exception. Pakistan’s spy agency, hedging against the Shiite revolution in neighboring Iran and in favor of the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, began pouring money into hard-line Sunni groups like his in the 1980s.
These days, Mr. Ishaq, a cigarette dealer with a sixth-grade education who has been in jail since 1997 with 44 cases against him, no longer seems to have official support, police officers said. Even so, convicting him has been all but impossible.
One of the main reasons is fear. Beginning in 1997, Mr. Ishaq stood trial in the deaths of 12 people at a gathering of the Ghalvi family, who are Shiites. Soon after the trial began, witnesses began to die. Mr. Ghalvi’s older brother was shot to death in his general store. A cousin was gunned down on his way to work.
Intimidation of witnesses became a more effective tool after 1990, when an Islamic provision known as “blood money” was passed that allowed criminals to settle their crimes with victims” families outside court. According to Tahir Wasti, a former legal adviser to the Punjab provincial government, it gave a frightened family even greater incentive not to go through the pain of a prosecution.
The law, set in motion by the 1980s military dictator Zia ul-Haq, caused the number of canceled cases in districts in and around Multan to double between 1981 and 2000, according to Mr. Wasti. Only 3 percent of murder cases in the area end in convictions, he said, a fraction of the rate in the United States.
“The provision has shaken the whole criminal justice system,” said Mr. Wasti, who has written a book on the subject. “It has encouraged all the criminals of Pakistan. They have used this loophole to kill whoever they want.”…
The United States has not helped. According to Christine Fair, an expert with the RAND Corporation, little more than 2 percent of United States financing to Pakistan has gone to assisting the police from 2002 to 2008.
The problem is likely to get worse. Militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are now entwined with the Taliban, Al Qaeda and criminal gangs with international ambitions. It is precisely this mix of violent crime and religious rhetoric that has made the insurgency so poisonous, Ms. Ahmed argues.
Fair trials of jihadis who have committed violent crimes are the only way to expose them. “It strips away that veil of ideology,” she said, “and leaves behind that naked face of a criminal.”
But such trials are rare, leaving people like Mr. Ghalvi, who dare stand up to militants, living in a strange state of suspended animation. He waits anxiously for his appeal. His cotton fields have declined. He no longer goes outside to buy his own clothes….