It is good to know that Her Majesty’s government, in its sublime generosity, courtesy its new High Commissioner HE Dr Christian Turner —has to a great extent un-strangulated, its advisory on British nationals to travel to Pakistan. Some of the areas that were restrained by the Home Office from travelling to have been eased and opened up, surely unlocking floodgates into pastures new described by international tour operators as beautiful sites hitherto unvisited by global travellers.
I wonder what made the Home Office so generous in its advisory to British citizens especially following the news that despite the fact that one of the most notorious killers kept in what is called “a safe house” by the army—made his escape good. I agree the news of the daring escape of TTP leader Ehsanullah Ehsan was sort of bolt from the blue. Being the sixth nuclear power in the world having one of the largest well-trained and well-armed armies with perhaps richest breed of generals with the track record of having successfully waged a war against Jihadi terrorists who were threatening conquest of northern areas—terrorist killer involved in the most bloody mayhem of nearly 150 students of APC and their teachers on December 16, 2014—Ehsanullah Ehsan could not be kept secured in the “safe house”.
In April 2018 –nearly one year ago, Pakistan armed forces, ISI and other law enforcers had announced a major breakthrough in its war against terror especially in its Jihad against home-grown militants. It had hit upon a ‘jack pot’ when it stumbled into a massive treasure trove of Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) and Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) anti-state secrets. The golden feather in their cap included surrender of former spokesmen of both outfits had surrendered. It seemed to be a stroke of luck by the forces that had been leaving no stone unturned in their war against the lethal terrorists.
And the story unwoven by the two after their surrender before our law enforcers made them conveniently spin a sordid tale that could easily earn sympathy to them. According to experts, their narrative was good enough to take our psywar experts for a ride and a “safe house” that ultimately proved to be a cage with doors open. Our military establishment was sweet talked into taking as gospel truth a narrative of how Afghanistan’s Khad and Indian agency Raw were funding these local Taliban to strike the Pakistani state from within. It was reported at that time that Ehsanullah Ehsan’s about-turn had been carefully negotiated by our experts knowing well how deceptive they were to deal with them. Pakistan army’s interlocutors had negotiated with the notorious Taliban renegades an amnesty for them in exchange of exposing the terrorists involved in the mass massacre of school children in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. The objective of this negotiated amnesty scheme was to oversee the process of one-time terrorist turn natives into informant.
This amnesty deal was severally criticised by the families of the aggrieved and mostly it was considered as surrender to terrorists’ our national interests. Pakistani military hierarchy was under immense pressure since by and large, aggrieved families, had thought it to be sell-out and a major wheeling-dealing to negotiate settlement with jihadis. Having not succeeded to draw any substantive advantage from the renegades and their leaders, there had to be an about-turn by the government. In February Prime Minister Imran Khan dropped the bombshell that instead of granting amnesty, Ehsanullah Ehsan would be sent for trial before a military court for committing mass massacre of students and teachers in Peshawar.
This decision was considered most appropriate to teach a lesson to all others enjoying terrorism as trade. It was in keeping with the popular aspirations for justice. Pakistanis—whatever cost—would not approve amnesty to those whose hands are soaked in the innocent blood of our youth. By and large, people feel that to give amnesty to such killers’ is like giving them a blank cheque to carry on their business as usual. The timely decision of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) that dismissed any chance of clemency to Ehsanullah Ehsan was being appreciated as a step in the right direction and one was looking forward to seeing Enhsanullah Ehsan put on trial to be hanged.
While the PHC order was welcomed, Ehsanullah Ehsan and his comrades who had confessed that the TTP was behind the Army Public School (APS) massacre in 2014 and similarly, the JuA had claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday attack on Christians some two years later. The PHC had barred the government from releasing Ehsan back in December although it was negotiating an amnesty deal.
While one was expecting law to take its own course and hang them, Ehsanullah Ehsan seemed to have struck better deal with his captors. They successfully hoodwinked the military authorities and managed to walk to freedom through the “safe house” leaving the law enforcers in a state of utter humiliation. Now the renegades are once again at large, comfortably enjoying the company of their comrades in Afghanistan—getting ready to restart their business as usual with TTP-JuA prison breakers on the go to wreck havoc once again.
Notwithstanding the failure of Imran Khan’s government to effectively deal with Ehsanullah Ehsan, try them and hang them when they were still in “safe house”, one hopes that the escapade does not amount to strengthening government’s desire to main streaming of religious terrorists since their supporters have a string foothold in the presence of an Interior Minister who has always been supporting existence of such elements as its proxy warriors.
One must reiterate that the only legitimate option before the state is to punish the terrorists like Ehsanullah Ehsan, Hafiz Saeed, Omar Saeed Sheikh and others instead of keeping them in state luxury in safe houses what is at best described as five-star protective custody. Most horrendous, indeed, is the fact that strangely enough government and its ministry of interior are just keeping quiet about the Ehsaullah’s escapade. The Interior Ministry is unable to tell the legislators about the fate of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan, and the nature of cases against him. Not only that, in response, to a question raised by former PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar if the Ministry of interior knew the fate of Ehsan, the Ministry was still in the dark. The ministry is believed to have maintained that it had no clue pertaining to Ehsanullah Ehsan escapade.
Such a mockery of law enforcing agencies including the super-duper intelligence apparatus–calls for immediate action not only to eliminate the renegades but also to take to task the law-enforcers responsible for the security of Ehsanullah Ehsan in the safe house. Ehsanullah’s escapade as if knife passed through butter amounts to gross failure of those who were assigned to keep them secured. His blatant escape won’t be taken lightly by the foreign countries who are reviewing their travelling advisories.