Action taken against army officers over Ehsanullah Ehsan's escape: DG ISPR

Published February 24, 2021
DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar. — GVS Screengrab
DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar. — GVS Screengrab

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar has said action was taken against officers responsible for the escape of former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan from military custody last year, BBC Urdu reported.

Speaking to journalists affiliated with foreign media outlets at his office on Wednesday, Iftikhar said that Ehsan's escape was a "very serious" matter that had been investigated thoroughly and those found responsible in the episode had already been proceeded against.

He also said "efforts are underway to arrest Ehsanullah Ehsan again" but that he wasn't aware of his current whereabouts.

Ehsan was arrested in 2017, but escaped in January 2020 from a so-called safe house where he was being held by the forces. The circumstances of both his arrest and escape have been shrouded in mystery and controversy.

Days after the militant's escape from custody, the then interior minister Ijaz Shah had confirmed the news as "true", saying that the "state is aware" without giving any more details.

Ehsan most recently made the news after he allegedly threatened Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai with a second attempt on her life. The TTP nine years ago had allegedly shot and badly wounded Malala.

Asked about the alleged threat, Maj Gen Iftikhar told journalists that according to his information, "the Twitter account which was used to threaten Malala was a fake account".

The alleged threat prompted Malala to tweet herself, asking both the military and Prime Minister Imran Khan to explain how her alleged shooter, Ehsan, had escaped from government custody.

“This is the ex-spokesperson of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan who claims the attack on me and many innocent people. He is now threatening people on social media,” she tweeted. “How did he escape?”

The charges against Ehsan include the horrific massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014 that killed 144 people — mostly children, some as young as five years old.

He also claimed responsibility for the 2012 shooting of Malala in Swat Valley. In the attack, the gunman walked up to her on a school bus in which she was travelling, asked for her by name and then fired three bullets. She was just 15 years old at the time and had enraged the Taliban with her campaign for girls' education.

Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a teacher, ran a school in Swat Valley for boys and girls. In 2007, when the TTP took control of the area, they forced girls out of schools and ruled with a brutal hand until 2009, when they were driven out by the military.

During his years in military custody, Ehsan was never charged. Authorities also later never explained how he left the country and travelled to Turkey, where he is believed to be living today.

'Missing persons issue to be resolved very soon'

During the conversation, Maj Gen Iftikhar, in response to a question about enforced disappearances, stated that the missing persons' commission had made "a lot of progress".

He said the commission had cases of more than 6,000 missing persons pending with it out of which nearly 4,000 had been resolved, according to BBC Urdu.

The head of the military's media affairs wing emphasised that "the missing persons issue will be resolved very soon."

His statement comes days after protesters calling for an end to enforced disappearances in Balochistan ended a week-long sit-in in the capital, after an assurance that Prime Minister Imran Khan will meet them next month.

The DG ISPR also disclosed that a few people had been arrested for links to the murders of 10 coal miners belonging to the Hazara community in Balochistan's Mach coal field area last month. He termed the arrests as "very important" but said he could not provide details.

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