Parents and family members of the children who were martyred in the terrorist attack targeting Peshawar's Army Public School filed a petition with the Peshawar High Court on Saturday, seeking contempt of court proceedings against multiple government officials following reports of former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan’s escape from custody.
The petition, submitted by Shuhada APS Forum President Fazal Khan Advocate, said that the respondents, which include the army chief, the director general of the ISI, as well as the federal and provincial secretaries, had violated earlier orders of the PHC barring authorities from releasing Ehsan.
“Despite clear cut directions of this honourable court [...], now it has come to light that [a] luxurious home [was provided to Ehsan] from which the terrorist has made his escape: a fact not denied by the respondents,” reads the petition, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.
“The petitioner has been informed through reliable sources that clemency was in order of Ehsanullah Ehsan for his ‘full and frank disclosure’ which is not only highly deplorable but also outrightly illegal and unconstitutional,” the writ petition says, adding that the respondents had earlier assured the court that Ehsan would be tried by a military court and would not be granted clemency.
The Peshawar High Court had in April 2018 barred the release of Ehsan, asking the government to wait until the relevant court tries him to decide his fate. The restriction on his release came as the court heard a petition, also by the APS Shuhuda Forum, challenging an alleged government plan to grant clemency to Ehsan.
In its order, the bench had observed that if the TTP’s former spokesman had claimed responsibility for the 2014 APS attack, then only parents of the martyred students were empowered to pardon him under the law.
In the petition filed today, APS parents claim that the respondents had not taken any steps to bring Ehsan to justice even though he had confessed to the massacre at APS along with several other heinous crimes.
“[...] Unfortunately, the demeanour of the respondents in bringing the culprits to justice is well highlighted by the fact that [...] not a single step has been taken by the respodents to bring the culprits to justice...”
The respondents, “through their inaction and omission have categorically flouted the orders of this court”, reads the petition.
“The conduct of the respondents is tantamount to contempt of court as even though ample time has passed, not only have they failed to do the needful but also the respondents have not even tried to abide by the directions of this honourable court and [...] the respondents have not taken any steps to adhere to the judgment of this honourable court,” the petition says.
The petition adds that Ehsan’s escape had raised fear in the hearts of parents as he was responsible for the Peshawar Army Public School massacre and the families of those who lost their lives in the attack still awaited justice.
News of Ehsan's escape has been floating around for the past couple of days, since a short audio message, allegedly from the former militant spokesman disclosed that on January 11, 2020, he had managed to escape from the “custody of the Pakistani security authorities”. Notwithstanding his latest claim of being in Turkey, some sources believe the former militant spokesman is in Afghanistan.
Sources have said that Ehsan fled during one of the operations to capture and target terrorists, adding that the TTP spokesman had to be tried for his crimes but before that, 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.
The audio message attributed to Ehsan, whose real name is Liaqat Ali, said that the TTP spokesman had surrendered to a Pakistani security agency on Feb 5, 2017 under an agreement. The message claimed Ehsan had honoured his part of the agreement and alleged that Pakistani authorities violated their terms and kept him in a prison along with his family.
The audio, which has not been independently verified, also claimed that Ehsan faced hardships during his custody and that circumstances compelled him to plan his escape.
The audio message did not provide details of the escape but said that Ehsan 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, Ehsan’s escape was first reported by an Indian weekly —SundayGuardianLive (TSG), published simultaneously from Delhi and Mumbai — on January 18, 2020, barely a week after his purported escape.
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.