As we sat in a veranda in the Talib Abbas village of Mandan, I could tell that my hosts felt uneasy with my journalistic outlook – diary, pen, worn-out handbag; for many, an ideal profile of an ‘informant’, working for the police or intelligence agencies.
I was at the house of a relative of one of the inmates who had managed to escape from the Bannu prison facility on April 15 after the Tehreek-e-Taliban attack.
There were a dozen of us and as the relatives started to offer ‘Fateha’ for the departed soul, I also joined them in their prayers.
Ayub Khan, 55, was a former client of the incumbent Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar. He had been served a life sentence and was one of the 384 who had managed to break free when TTP militants launched the assault.
However, Ayub’s luck managed to take him so far only. His eventual death was to come under open air – only nine hours later, his corpse was found in Bannu’s mountainous terrain.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Ayub’s nephew, Azizullah Khan, asserted that his uncle had been imprisoned 11 years ago and was sentenced to death by the court in 2003.
“However, we have our doubts over the possibility of him taking the initiative on his own. Maybe he had been forced to escape,” Azizullah remarked.
“Most of the prisoners were ‘forced’ to flee by TTP militants who had threatened them with death if they did not comply with orders,” added another relative.
That fateful afternoon
After he had been accused of killing a relative, Ayub had hired the services of Barrister Masood Kausar. However, when Kausar took up the governorship, Ayub had to hire the services of another counsel, Barrister Zahoorul Haq.
After being convicted, Ayub took his case to the Supreme Court for hearing. However, his plea was rejected by the apex court. His appeal for clemency now lay with President Asif Ali Zardari.
“After we had received information that uncle had broken loose, we made announcements in mosques for clues to his whereabouts,” reflected Azizullah.
Since a majority of the inmates had escaped into the mountains in Pheng, Daryoba and other areas in Bannu, the family anticipated that Ayub must have followed suit.
However, the family received information around 2 pm on April 15 that a body had been recovered from Pheng.
“When we reached the area, we could see it was uncle’s corpse,” said Azizullah.
When asked who was to be blamed for the unexpected turn of events, Ayub’s relatives pointed to the K-P government.
Negligence of the authorities had led to the jailbreak itself, they asserted.
Citing the fact that Ayub’s ‘untimely’ death was consequent to the ineffective security arrangements, the family now demands compensation from the government for his death.
Whether that arrives or not, details of what really happened in those fateful hours of the Taliban assault will always be shrouded in mystery; did the prisoners seize the chance provided to them by fate or were they forced to flee; the question remains.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.