AGAINST the backdrop of official silence, unnamed sources are leaking like a sieve and, with each emerging detail, it is becoming clearer that the prophets of doom and gloom and the moaners have been miserably wrong about the state of human rights in Pakistan.
Yes, the case in point is Ehsanullah Ehsan. He was no ordinary criminal. Ehsan was the official spokesman of the TTP, and one of its bloodiest factions, the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, who surrendered to the authorities in 2017. The announcement was made by the DG ISPR in April that year.
As the TTP spokesman, he claimed responsibility for the murderous attempt on Malala Yousafzai’s life, sectarian attacks targeting Shia gatherings in Karachi and Rawalpindi, the mass murder of Christians in a Lahore park, the attack on Peshawar airport among a spate of other terrorist strikes.
The then DG ISPR said Ehsan’s surrender indicated the despondency among TTP ranks as a result of the military operations and it also showed that many of the group’s cadres were rethinking their future strategy.
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In a televised interview, one ISPR-approved security expert, retired Air Marshal Shahid Latif, described Ehsan as an asset who provided crucial information regarding the terror operations of his group and would continue to be a goldmine of intelligence about the TTP.
So, what do we do? Wait for more Ehsan audios as he has threatened to release?
However, while different quarters kept inquiring about Ehsan’s fate following his surrender, after a widely criticised and officially sanctioned interview on Geo TV, not much was heard of the TTP lynchpin as he withdrew into the shadows.
Perhaps, the only hint about his fate came in the interview of Mr Latif who said that in cases where the terror suspect comes over to the authorities with vital information about his group he can escape punishment as his ‘repentance’ is taken into account.
If this was indeed a policy, it was evidenced earlier as well. In 2014/2015, Asmatullah Moavia returned quietly to live happily ever after in his south Punjab village. He was the ameer of the Punjabi Taliban, the group that claimed the 2013 Peshawar church carnage, killing nearly 100 worshippers.
It was clear that Ehsan did not face the full might of the law either, as his name was not among the TTP militants sentenced by the military courts. Now, that he has claimed in an audio on social media that he has escaped from Pakistani custody, details are emerging of his life in ‘detention’.
One report attributed to unnamed sources said he was kept in a safe house in Peshawar and another media report pinpoints the location of that premises as being in Hayatabad. His family was lodged with him in the same house.
But of course the icing on the cake for other terror suspects is that they won’t have to wait for the good life in the hereafter, as their TTP ‘groomers and handlers’ drummed into their heads, but only cross over to the other side to enjoy all facilities including conjugal rights.
In Ehsan’s case, he is said to have fathered a child while in captivity. This reminded me of another terror suspect who is said to have fathered a child while lodged in a cell in Rawalpindi’s Adiala prison. He may not have escaped abroad but was granted bail and released as the trial stalled. Ehsan was luckier if he is to be believed that he and his family, including the Hayatabad-conceived and born youngest member, are now in Turkey.
Another leaked report now tells us that Ehsan’s surrender terms included the payment of a large sum of money and that the TTP’s former spokesman — then intelligence asset, and now an embarrassment — escaped as the promised disbursement never materialised.
As is the case in such matters, neither the official nor unnamed sources were able to shed any light on how on Jan 18, ostensibly a mere seven days after Ehsan’s claimed escape on Jan 11 last, an Indian news website said to enjoy close ties with RAW broke the story?
Is it that Ehsan, who profited from playing one side against another, now extended that game to a third/fourth party? Surely, our intelligence setup is not that unintelligent or uninformed that it does not know. The only thing apparent is that the people have no right to know from our own guardians.
So, what do we do? Wait for more Ehsan audios as he has threatened to release? Can he not be pre-empted? Is he really in Turkey as he claims or is he now in a land hostile to Pakistan? And if he indeed is somewhere like that does he possess the means to damage or, at least, cause us more embarrassment?
You and I can hope all we want. We won’t know, just as the Hamoodur Rehman Commission report or the more recent commission’s report on the US SEALs raid that killed Osama bin Laden will never see the light of day.
We should count our blessings that at least these commissions were set up and went through the motions as events such as the Kargil war where hundreds of our brave sons valiantly gave up their lives remain shrouded in complete obscurity.
However, please, please don’t take the respect accorded to terrorists’ human rights to mistakenly believe that your rights will be afforded the same protection; if you feel an inflated sense of your own rights, lock yourself up in a room till you dispossess yourself of that notion.
And, in any case, don’t exercise your right to free assembly and free speech in a public place as that could land you in thick soup, one with a twist of sedition on top. You are not a terrorist. You are the miserable loser, the type that protests against rights’ violations.
Where do you go? Don’t ask me. I have no idea.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2020