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Ehsanullah Ehsan’s ‘Escape’ And Govt’s Deafening Silence

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Zarnaab Adil writes about former TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan’s ‘escape’ from custody and argues that Interior Minister Brig (r) Ijaz Shah must take responsibility for this security lapse and clarify as to what led to the debacle. 

Back in his heydays, former president General ® Pervez Musharraf chose the American daily Washington Post to pen an opinion piece for. Housed on K-Street in the American capital, both literally and figuratively, the paper ran Musharraf’s ‘plea for enlightened moderation’ in June of 2004.

The general struck a somber tone, bemoaning the forlorn condition of his ‘Muslim brethren’ and calling on both his brethren and the West to adopt enlightened moderation – a term he is now credited for coining. He called on fellow Muslims to spurn militancy and accept the fruits of socio-economic improvement and for the West to dispense justice and aid this upliftment globally.

The root cause of militancy, the soldier-turned-ruler argued, was injustice and deprivation. Ironically that same year, true to his burgeoning credentials as an enlightened moderate, Musharraf handpicked a close aide and former DG Intelligence Bureau Brigadier Ijaz Ahmed Shah to represent Pakistan in Canberra. To say that Shah had a tainted past would be an understatement.

His reputation was fraught with allegations of being Omer Saeed Sheikh’s handler, involvement in the Daniel Pearl case and later a certain affinity for one Osama Bin Laden, discovered hiding a stone’s throw away from the Pakistan Military Academy where Shah and Musharraf became commissioned officers. The Australian foreign office politely rejected Shah’s appointment given his less than perfect track record. Nonetheless, he had had a long career as both a soldier, spymaster and bureaucrat.

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Fast forward fifteen years, the Brigadier finds himself the Pakistani Minister for Interior. The journey to the minister’s office was far from easy. Shah returned to his ancestral Nankana Sahib to dabble in the world of politics, where his brother had been district Nazim. The ex-spymaster tried and failed to enter the National Assembly in 2013 losing out to PMLN’s Rai Mansab Ali Khan. Khan perished to a heart attack in 2015.

In the resulting by-election, Shah lost to his daughter. Five years later, he was on the ballot as a PTI candidate, in line with party tradition of rewarding Musharraf’s closest. In a close race which saw Tehreek-e-Labbaik secure 49,345 votes, Shah finally clinched a lawmaker’s seat.

 A little over ten months into his tenure as Pakistan’s security czar, Tehreek-e-Taliban spokesperson and purported Peshawar attack mastermind Ehsanullah Ehsan allegedly escaped from custody in Peshawar and resurfaced 3,000 miles away in Turkey. Upon Ehsan’s surrender in 2017, the then DG ISPR Asif Ghafoor proudly affirmed that the state’s writ was being re-established.

With scant media reporting, this escape from custody has left many scratching their heads.

Global headlines blared that the man responsible for the attack on Malala now roams free. Surely, this does not do Pakistan’s soft image that the ISPR holds so close to its heart, any favours.

One hopes that the man answerable for this lapse, Brigadier Ijaz Shah will soon provide us with a satisfactory answer. If one is to believe General Ziauddin Butt whom Shah has since taken to court, the brigadier personally oversaw the construction of Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound. Shah has vehemently denied these allegations, but the entire fiasco does not make for pretty viewing. As the PTI government struggles on various fronts the last thing it needs is a blowup like the Abbottabad one, especially when the state claims to have made concrete progress on security issues.

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Compared to his predecessor, the newly appointed DG ISPR’s reticence seemed refreshing but his silence on this latest development is mind boggling.

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