WHAT was an open secret for weeks has finally been officially confirmed, and in the process reopened wounds that had never fully healed. Ehsanullah Ehsan, former spokesman of the banned TTP and later its splinter group, Jamaatul Ahrar, has indeed escaped from the security agencies’ custody. However, there was no formal statement by the government; instead, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah acknowledged the veracity of the reports about Ehsan’s flight from detention during the course of a chat with journalists. And the public was given the bare minimum: “The news is true, it is true,” he said. No details were offered as to how such a high-profile prisoner — one that most would agree is the very definition of a ‘jet black terrorist’ — manage to evade stringent security measures in a red zone.
On Feb 6, a short audio message purportedly by Ehsan emerged claiming he had escaped on Jan 11, lending credence to a report by an Indian publication a few weeks earlier that had first made the startling disclosure. The news was met with shock and outrage in Pakistan. For those closely touched by terrorist violence, grief has been compounded by injustice. An individual who, in his capacity as the mouthpiece for bloodthirsty terrorist outfits, had claimed responsibility for acts that have destroyed so many lives, now roams free. In fact, a group representing the families of the APS massacre victims has filed a petition in court seeking contempt of court proceedings against a number of government, security and intelligence officials for the development. Despite Ehsan’s whereabouts being discussed in parliament, in the media, and on the street for several weeks, there was a deafening silence from the government and the security agencies. Now, there is only the most casual of confirmations, which belies the seriousness of the issue. Worse, it trivialises the people’s anguish. They deserve better. They deserve to know how Ehsan escaped; whether he actually escaped at all, or was released as part of some opaque deal.
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020