Where is Ehsanullah?

Published July 20, 2020

IT is curious that despite Ehsanullah Ehsan, former spokesman of the banned TTP and later its splinter group Jamaatul Ahrar, having engineered a miraculous ‘escape’ from the security agencies’ custody in January, there seems no effort to recapture him. In fact, the government has barely mentioned him at all except to confirm his flight, which Interior Minister Ijaz Shah undertook to do in the most offhand, cursory manner during a chat with journalists. Ehsan, meanwhile, does not appear to have opted for a low profile. A Twitter account reportedly used by him has been fairly active, and reflects the bloodthirsty mindset one would expect of his kind. Among the more disturbing recent tweets from this account is a death threat against PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, saying that the latter would meet the same fate as his mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. On Friday in the upper house of parliament, the PPP rightly demanded to know what Ehsan’s current status was, with Senator Sherry Rehman asking why he was not in custody. Further, she said, the government must disclose the details of his ostensible escape and tell the nation who had a hand in it.

Not many people will ever forget the chilling smugness, even glee, with which Ehsan would claim his organisation’s responsibility for carrying out acts of heinous violence. His surrender to the security forces in April 2017 was described by the then DG ISPR as evidence of the low morale of terrorist organisations in the face of the military operation. No details were given at that time about how the surrender came about, or whether it was part of an immunity deal. Ehsan himself, however, had much to say in an interview to a private TV channel, distancing himself from the TTP and accusing them of carrying out terrorist attacks at the behest of RAW and NDS. Ehsan’s escape in January this year, announced in a short video message on Feb 6 by the latter himself — thereby confirming a report to the effect in an Indian publication a few weeks prior — was met with shock and anger in Pakistan. A group representing the families of the APS massacre victims went to court, seeking contempt of court proceedings against a number of government, security and intelligence officials for the development.

That this mouthpiece of depraved terrorist organisations is able to roam free, apparently making his noxious ideas public and hurling threats against members of Pakistan’s political class, is outrageous. That the government believes it can remain tight-lipped about this issue is unacceptable. The public has a right to know more about the circumstances surrounding Ehsan’s so-called escape. Until individuals like him pay the price for the evil they have done, there can be no justice for the victims of their crimes and no peace for the grieving families left behind.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2020

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