Ehsanullah Ehsan is no ordinary person. As spokesperson of the dreaded Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JA) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist organisations, he had proudly claimed responsibility on their behalf for so many heinous attacks in Pakistan that way back in 2012, the country’s Interior Minister Rehman had even announced a $1 million bounty on him. That’s why when in 2017, Director General Inter Services Public Relations (DGISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor announced that this dreaded terrorist had ‘surrendered’ to the Pakistan Army, the whole episode appeared so fishy that in its editorial on this incident, even Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper termed this surrender as having taken place under “mysterious circumstances.”
Amongst the many claims of killings made by Ehsan, a few heart rending ones are:
- Shooting 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head for highlighting Taliban atrocities in 2012.
- Suicide bombing of Shiites in Rawalpindi and Karachi in November 2012 that killed at least 25 people.
- The killing of nine foreign tourists and their guide in Gilgit-Baltistan area in 2013.
- Twin blasts targeting peace committee volunteers in Chinari village of Safi Tehsil in Mohmand agency that claimed six lives in 2014.
- Suicide attack near the Wagah border that claimed at least 60 lives in November 2014.
- The 2016 bombing of a Christian gathering celebrating Easter in a Lahore park that killed at least 75 people and injured more than 300.
If Ehsan’s alleged surrender was controversial, then so was the way he was treated by the Pakistan Army while in its custody because, even after more than two and a half years since his so called “surrender,” the Pakistan Army has not yet even filed a charge-sheet against him. This is rather surprising because the otherwise ‘efficient’ Pakistan Army that took a mere 13 months and seven days to investigate, complete judicial proceedings and award death sentence to retired Indian Navy officer Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav! The only plausible reason for this inexplicable delay in Ehsan’s case is that he was playing ball with the Pakistan Army and keeping his captors in good humour by parroting out whatever he was told by his captors.
This suspicion is substantiated by the fact that soon after his ‘surrender’, Geo TV was allowed to interview Ehsanullah Ehsan and in a 30 minutes broadcast of the same that followed, the former spokesperson of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JA) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed that he was working for India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW). Coming at a time when the complete lack of transparency and highly questionable legal proceedings that culminated in Jadhav being handed down death sentence was being questioned by legal luminaries the world over, Ehsan’s revelation of R&AW inciting terrorism in Pakistan served as a much-needed ‘fig-leaf’ of propriety for the Pakistan Army. But coming from a person with dubious antecedents Ehsan’s ‘revelation’ didn’t even cause a ripple!
Ehsan is also a prime accused in the gruesome 2014 Army Public School (APS) Peshawar attack in which 134 school children and 15 staff members were mercilessly gunned down and since a majority of the pupils were wards of those who were serving (or had served) in the Pakistan armed forces, one had expected that he would be speedily brought to justice. Dawn in its, Editorial (“Ehsanullah Ehsan’s Confession,” April 28, 2017) too had cautioned that “What the country’s leadership must not do is create fresh confusion about who the real enemy is and thereby inadvertently create some sympathy for the Pakistani Taliban as misguided and manipulated fighters.” But as is its wont, Rawalpindi doesn’t seem to have realised the sagacity of this suggestion.
Just like his ‘surrender’, Ehsan’s incarceration too turned out to be equally mysterious. In fact, he seems to have been given such preferential treatment by Pakistan Army that in 2017, the father of an Army Public School victim petitioned Peshawar High Court (PHC) against any attempt by the Pakistan Army to facilitate grant of clemency to Ehsan for getting him released. That the Peshawar High Court took cognisance of this petition and instead of dismissing it as a frivolous or baseless complaint, went on to pass an order barring the government from releasing him, vindicates the general perception in Pakistan that the army was going ‘soft’ on Ehsan.
During February 2018, in a written reply to the Senate, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal had confirmed that civilian agencies weren’t involved in investigating or initiating legal proceedings against Ehsan and that he would be tried by a military court. Yet, nearly a year later, nothing has happened except that Ehsan, who until now was only eluding justice is now reportedly eluding his captors. How did he manage to escape from Pakistan Army’s custody is just as mysterious as his surrender and confinement. And if this news is true, then this incident not only raises many questions but also strengthens the deep suspicion that this mysterious disappearance is an ‘inside-job’ of the Pakistan Army.
Tailpiece — Dawn’s aforesaid editorial ended with a cautionary note that “As for Ehsanullah Ehsan, he must face justice. In no circumstances should an individual who brashly and with a great deal of pride claimed responsibility for the slaughter of countless Pakistanis ever be allowed to escape punishment. There are no conceivable circumstances, no tactical gains or operational information that Ehsan can offer to justify ever being a free man again.” Peshawar High Court also decreed that he shouldn’t be released.
So, just what Pakistan’s judiciary and media feared could happen has actually happened, but this is not at all surprising in a country where everyone proposes, but it’s only the Pakistan Army that disposes!