PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Wednesday restrained the federal government from releasing Ehsanullah Ehsan, a former spokesman for the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), without its permission.
A PHC bench comprising Chief Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ijaz Anwar told Deputy Attorney General Musaratullah Khan that investigation should continue against Ehsan and he should not be set free in the meantime.
The court expressed dissatisfaction over brief comments filed on behalf of the defence ministry on a petition which challenged the alleged government plan to give clemency to Ehsan and sought detailed comments clearly explaining the government’s position on the matter.
During a previous hearing, the court had directed the defence ministry to explain in clear terms whether any clemency had been offered to Ehsan and under what law the government was going to proceed against him.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Fazal Khan, father of one of the several students shot dead by the TTP militants in the 2014 attack on the Army Public School (APS) campus in Peshawar.
The petitioner, whose son Sahibzada Umar Khan was killed in the attack, requested the court to direct the respondents, including the federal government, to refrain from giving clemency to Ehsan.
He prayed to the court to order the speedy trial of Ehsan by a military court and that the petitioner should be informed about the outcome of the case thereafter.
The respondents in the petition are the federal government through the interior secretary, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government through the chief secretary, the defence ministry through its secretary, the Inter-Services Intelligence director general, the chief of the army staff, and the law and human rights ministry through its secretary.
Barrister Amirullah Khan Chamkani, representing the petitioner, contended that a few weeks ago the attorney general’s office had filed brief comments saying the investigation and operations based on the revelations of Ehsan are under process and therefore, the petition should be dismissed.
He stated that the court was not satisfied with those comments and had directed the deputy attorney general to submit better comments. However, he added that once again brief comments were filed on behalf of the defence ministry.
He said that the respondent (ministry of defence) had filed evasive comments.
He said since the government had not categorically denied the assertions made by his client, it meant that those were correct.
The bench observed that it would be appropriate that detailed comments should be filed in the case.
The lawyer said the government had made public in April this year that Ehsan had surrendered himself to it and since then they had been investigating him, but no charge had so far been brought against him.
He said 148 students and staff members, including eighth grader son of the petitioner, had lost their lives in the Dec 16, 2014, APS attack.
The petitioner said in his petition that after almost three years one of the masterminds of the APS attack, Ehsanullah Ehsan alias Tariq, had surrendered or had been captured by the law enforcement agencies, which had given some hope to him (petitioner) that the perpetrators of the APS incident would be brought to justice.
He said unfortunately to his utmost surprise and disappointment, Ehsan far from being brought to justice was being portrayed as an “unaware, innocent and brainwashed” man, who had inadvertently masterminded many terrorist activities in the country, particularly in KP.
The petitioner added that it was reported in the media that clemency was on the cards for Ehsan for his ‘full and frank’ disclosure.
He said the possible government move was not only highly deplorable but also illegal and unconstitutional.
Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2017