PESHAWAR: Mystery surrounds the circumstan­ces of the dramatic escape of Ehsanullah Ehsan, who had surrendered himself to a Pakistani security agency under an agreement some three years ago, with sources saying that he fled during one of the operations to capture and target terrorists.

The sources said Ehsan had to be tried for his crimes but before the trial, all possible information had to be extracted from him to conclude the operations and that it was during one such operation that he was able to flee.

Notwithstanding his latest claim of being in Turkey, some sources believe the former militant spokesman is in Afghanistan.

In the short audio message, the former militant spokesman disclosed that on January 11, 2020, “with the help of Allah”, he had managed to escape from the “custody of the Pakistani security authorities”.

Former TTP spokesman claims he is in Turkey, sources believe he’s in Afghanistan

Ehsan, whose real name is Liaqat Ali, said he had surrendered to a Pakistani sec­urity agency on Feb 5, 2017 under an agreement. He cla­i­med that he had honoured his part of the agreement but alleged that the Pakistani authorities violated its terms and kept him in a prison along with his family.

He claimed that he faced hardships during his custody and circumstances compelled him to plan his escape.

He was the public face of the outlawed militant gro­ups and accepted responsibility on behalf of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and later Jamaatul Ahrar for some of the major terrorist incidents in Pakistan – including the attempt to assassinate Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai on October 9, 2012.

He did not provide details of his escape but said that he would release “terms of the agreement” he had entered into with Pakistani authorities, the “approving authority” and “the individual who had furnished assurances” with regard to its implementation.

Earlier in a call to a Pakistani newspaper, the former militant spokesman claimed that he was in Turkey, along with his wife, son and daughter but refused to say how he had managed to reach there.

Surprisingly, however, Ehsan’s escape was first reported by an Indian weekly newspaper on January 18, 2020 — barely a week after his escape — the SundayGuardian Live (TSG), published simultaneously from Delhi and Mumbai.

Authored by Abhinandan Mishra, the report quoting “Pakistan-based sources”, said the militant spokesman had fled from his safe house, where he was being kept along with his family.

It further claimed that the following day, Pakistani authorities swooped down on Ehsan’s native place in Sagibala village in Safi subdivision of Mohmand tribal district and detained his father, brother and uncle to know about his whereabouts.

In his first interview with a private Pakistani television channel in May, 2017, Ehsan had provided details of the working of the Afghanistan-based TTP and JUA and their nexus with the Afghan intelligence service, the NDS and Indian intelligence R&AW.

The TSG story was shared widely on social media platform however, did not elicit any comments from the Pakistani authorities and nor did attempts to get a reaction from the relevant quarters yielded any response.

However, sources said that long before his voluntary surrender, Ehsan had started sharing sensitive information with Pakistani security agencies. He was presented to media for an interview on April 26, 2017, to expose his handlers and conspirators, they said.

In the follow-up investigation, the sources said that Ehsan provided highly sensitive, valuable and accurate information which led to the busting of several hardcore terrorists’ networks and capture and targeting of TTP and JUA terrorists both inside as well as outside the country. The sources added that Ehsan had to be tried for his crimes but before the trial, maximum information had to be extracted from him to conclude the operations. They said it was during one such operation that he was able to flee.

Dawn in a report published on Sept 6, 2017, quoting senior security officials, had provided details of his surrender and his attempts to seek an agreement with state security agencies that included a house to live in along with his family in Rawalpindi, a huge sum to start off a business and a possible relocation to the Gulf or a Middle Eastern country, citing threat to him and his family.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2020