ISLAMABAD: The army on Monday announced that one of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar top leaders and former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had surrendered himself to security forces.
The announcement was made by Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor towards the end of his media briefing that largely focused on major counterterrorism operations carried out by the military since the launch of Operation Raddul Fasaad.
“Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) commander and former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan has surrendered,” Gen Ghafoor said without elaborating when he turned himself in to security forces.
Before announcing Ehsan’s surrender, the ISPR chief said that one of the objectives of the counterterrorism operations was to restore the writ of the state and it was also a big achievement if someone indulging in wrongdoing realised that he was on the wrong side.
Medical student Naureen was to be used as suicide bomber on Easter Day
It is generally believed that Ehsan has been in military’s custody since the army responded to a string of terrorist attacks in February, which had been claimed by JuA, by shelling terrorist hideouts along the Pak-Afghan border.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa had, while talking to troops during one of his recent visits to military formations, hinted that a high-value target was being held.
Ehsan was believed to have been in hiding in Afghanistan. He was one of the founding figures of JuA, which was formed in August 2014 after splitting from the TTP. JuA is one of the most lethal of TTP’s splinter groups as it remained involved in some of the most brutal attacks.
The group carried out about 120 attacks since it was formed nearly three years ago. At one stage JuA had aligned itself with Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the militant Islamic State group. JuA subsequently returned to the TTP fold, but continued to maintain an independent identity. The group launched the so-called operation Ghazi in February that led to spike in terrorist attacks.
Having Ehsan in custody could be invaluable for the security agencies given the wealth of information he could be having about JuA networks and operations.
The ISPR chief showed a recorded video message of Naureen Leghari, a medical student who went missing from Hyderabad in February and reportedly moved to Syria to join Daesh.
She was caught during a raid on a terrorist hideout in Lahore on Friday in which her husband was killed. She was being prepared to be launched as a suicide bomber against one of the churches in Lahore on Easter Day. The raid, which Gen Ghafoor said had to be hastened because it was quickly moving towards execution, foiled the plot.
In her statement, Ms Leghari said: “I went to Lahore on my own, no one kidnapped me. On April 1, our organisation gave us four suicide jackets, some hand-grenades and bullets. These were to be used in a suicide attack on a church in Lahore. I was supposed to be the suicide bomber.”
Gen Ghafoor said she had not travelled to Syria and remained in Lahore, adding that the to-be suicide bomber would be rehabilitated and returned to normal life. “She had been brainwashed and misled,” he said of the girl, who is still being interrogated about her role in terror plot and links with Daesh.
In reply to multiple questions about Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been sentenced to death for espionage and terrorism, the military spokesman said the case was moving towards the appeal process. The appellate court, he added, would be headed by a two-star general.
He, however, did not see any chance of the verdict being overturned. “The verdict is based on incontrovertible evidence and the army will fully defend it,” he said, recalling the decision at the corps commanders’ conference that there could be no compromise on anti-state acts.
Gen Ghafoor praised the media for “foiling” Indian plot to use abducted former military officer retired Lt Col Habib Zahir for propaganda against Pakistan. “If they haven’t been able to exploit Col Zahir’s case so far, it is just because of Pakistani media,” he said. The ISPR spokesman rejected a perception that the investigation into a Dawn report had been delayed because of lack of consensus among members of the commission formed for the purpose. He said the delay happened because the members took their time to complete their mandate.
“The responsible would be identified,” he said. In a rejoinder to Gen Ghafoor’s presser, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan insisted that the investigation report had been delayed because the panel members could not agree on the recommendations.
In an apparent snub to the military spokesman, the minister said the ISPR chief was neither associated with the investigation committee nor was he holding his current position (DG ISPR) when the committee was constituted.
He recalled that Justice Amir Raza Khan had agreed to head the panel only on the condition that he would sign the report once consensus would be reached.
Had the members agreed on recommendations, it would not have taken five months to finalise the report, Chaudhry Nisar said.
Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2017