FATF: Pakistan in Trouble Over Terrorist Escape

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan

The opposition in Pakistan has been asking the government how it was going to explain itself at the FATF over the escape of one of the country’s most dreaded terrorists, Ehsanullah, from military custody..writes Aarti Tikoo Singh

Ehsanullah Ehsan by .
Ehsanullah Ehsan

Days ahead of the FATF meeting, the Pakistan opposition slammed the Imran Khan government over the escape of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) former spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan who was responsible for terror attacks on Malala Yousafzai and Peshawar Army Public School.

The Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog on terror funding and money laundering, had placed Pakistan in ‘grey list’ in June 2018, requiring it to crack down on terror groups and their finances by October 2019. Failure to comply poses the risk of being placed on the Black List with Iran and North Korea, which can adversely impact a country’s trade and investment.

The Imran Khan government expects to exit the FATF grey list with the help of China, Turkey and Malaysia in the February 16 meeting, sources based in Pakistan said.

However, the opposition in Pakistan has been asking the government how it was going to explain itself at the FATF over the escape of one of the country’s most dreaded terrorists, Ehsanullah, from military custody.

“How can the government lecture on terrorism? What will the government say to FATF — that we are fighting terror but we don’t know how the country’s biggest terrorist has fled Pakistan? Are we not ashamed at all?,” chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and member of national assembly Bilawal Bhutto told local media.

Ehsanullah Ehsan and Malala Yousafzai. by .
Ehsanullah Ehsan and Malala Yousafzai.

“I will raise this in the national assembly. This is another example of the government’s incompetence. When we all agreed that they (TTP) are our enemies and we will not let them go scot-free, how is it that the person who was responsible for the Peshawar Army Public school and Malala terror attacks, has fled from this country?”

Outraged by the government’s silence over the issue, Bhutto said, “The government has to answer whether it is complicit or incompetent. Because the consequences for this country are just as grave in both the situations. Are they complicit or are they facilitating their escape while they round up democratic politicians and processes. You can put former prime ministers (Nawaz Sharif) in jail, but you can’t keep Ehsanullah Ehsan in jail? With what face will you answer the families of Army Public School (who lost their kids in the Peshawar attack)?”

“To date, the government hasn’t set up a joint investigation team (JIT) for them even as the families have been pleading for a probe. People who have been victims of terror in Pakistan are asking this question and the government must answer. Till how long should we tolerate this?” he asked.

The Pakistan senate standing committee on interior has also asked the ministry of interior to submit, within three days, a detailed report on the escape of Ehsanullah Ehsan from the custody of security authorities.

Mohsin Javed Dawar, another member of the national assembly and leader of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) also raised the issue in the assembly, asking for details about and a probe into Ehsanullah’s arrest and subsequent escape.

Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence Faiz Hameed. by .
Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Faiz Hameed.

The IANS on February 7 broke the news story of the escape of Ehsanullah Ehsan, who had surrendered before Pakistan Army in 2017 in mysterious circumstances. However, Pakistan Army was yet to file a charge-sheet against him.

In an audio recording released last Thursday and shared via an online private messaging platform, Ehsanullah claimed that he along with his family had managed to escape from the custody of Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies on January 11.

Ehsanullah escaped from a safe house, a bungalow on Warsak road in Peshawar, where he was detained along with his wife and two daughters. The house is near the same Army school which was attacked by TTP in 2014, killing around 150 children. However, there was no security when he fled the house. Sources had told IANS that the former spokesperson of TTP crossed the border and is now at a safe place in Afghanistan.

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