The great escape?

Published February 8, 2020

THE claim of former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan in an audio on social media that he had escaped from the custody of Pakistani authorities some three years after surrendering to them has been greeted by an ominous official silence.

Ehsan was one of the most high-profile members of the banned TTP, having claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt on Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and rigging a bomb (luckily detected and defused) to journalist Hamid Mir’s vehicle, besides being involved in other attempted or actual attacks.

He engaged journalists and critics on Twitter in English, sometimes mocking them, sometimes issuing threats.

In April 2017, the then DG ISPR described his surrender as symptomatic of the low morale of terrorist organisations because of the military operations.

In a short video statement then, Ehsan distanced himself from the TTP, accusing it of misguiding the youth in the name of Islam and carrying out terrorist acts at the behest of the Afghan NDS and India’s RAW security services.

After an interview on Geo TV, which was widely criticised because it provided the former terrorist an effective platform, Ehsan receded into the shadows.

Even when he surrendered no details were released. Nor was it made clear if his surrender was part of a deal.

What was apparent was that his name was not among those terrorists who were tried and sentenced by military courts.

Then on Jan 18, an India-based news website that some security experts here describe as a platform for RAW propaganda reported his escape.

Now his audio has surfaced where he claims he escaped on Jan 11. Talking to The News, he claimed he had reached Turkey with his family.

A report suggests his wife and two children were lodged in the same safe house as him in Peshawar but were able to leave a few days prior to his escape on the pretext of visiting his in-laws.

BBC Urdu asked the ISPR for comment but there was reluctance to confirm or deny the news.

Surely, this official silence will create misgivings and is unacceptable. It is time for a full disclosure.

First is the news true? If so, how did he escape? Have those responsible been held to account? Equally, the people have a right to know if his ‘escape’ was a massive security failure or part of an immunity deal negotiated before his surrender.

In his audio he has threatened to tell all. The authorities should make their version public first.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2020

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