ISLAMABAD – The alleged escape of a high-profile terror suspect and former spokesperson of the Taliban, Ehsanullah Ehsan, has grabbed headlines and led to widespread speculation in Pakistan, with families of terror victims approaching the Supreme Court on Thursday to seek his capture.
Ehsan, first as the spokesperson of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and later of another rebel group Jama-ul-Ahrah, had claimed responsibility for major terrorist incidents such as the 2012 assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai – who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize two years later – and the 2016 terrorist attack on a children’s park in the eastern city of Lahore, that killed 70 people.
In a video sent to Pakistani media outlets last week, Ehsan claimed to have escaped from military custody on 11January along with his wife, a claim which is yet to be confirmed by the government and the military.
Families of the 150 victims killed of a deadly TTP attack on a school in the western city of Peshawar in 2014 have reacted furiously to the reports while a local newspaper claimed to have received a call from the rebel from Turkey.
“We believe he didn’t escape, but he was allowed to leave the country. How can a killer under the custody of the army can get away so easily?” Abid Raza Bangash, the father of a student killed in the Peshawar school attack, told EFE.
The families of Peshawar victims – which included 132 children – on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking Ehsan’s capture and extradition to Pakistan and asking clarification over how he managed to escape.
In the audio message – which has not been authenticated – the Taliban rebel accused Pakistani authorities of violating their agreement with him.
“In the near future, I will make more revelations about the deal and people involved in it,” the audio claimed.
He was reportedly kept in a safe house along with his family after his surrender was announced in April 2017 by the powerful Pakistani military just two days after the Lahore attack, which had come after three months of relative calm in the country.
Both the military and the government have neither confirmed nor denied the escape so far.
The spokesperson of the ministry of foreign affairs, Aisha Farooqui told EFE on Thursday that the ministry was “looking into the reports of his escape.”
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is an umbrella organization formed of a number of tribal groups who joined forces in 2007 with the aim of imposing Islamic rule in the country, and pledged loyalty to the Afghan Taliban.
The group’s attacks and influence have waned since 2018 after a major military operation by the government near the Afghanistan border, which killed successive leaders of the TTP.