A smell of fish

The production of a video-tape is not the same as a court appearance and should not be touted as such

Editorial February 17, 2018

The Peshawar High Court on Thursday extended an earlier order which directed the federal government not to release a former spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Ehsanullah Ehsan. Rumour had been rife that a deal had been done between one of the admitted architects of the Army Public School massacre as well as other atrocities, and the bench was keen to lay rumour to rest. It is now a year since Ehsanullah Ehsan surrendered to an intelligence agency and he has made no court appearance thus far. Possibly in response to the hearing in Peshawar the previous day the government moved on Friday to assure the Senate that Ehsan would be tried by a military court and that a decision has been taken that he would not receive a pardon, this being the decision of ‘relevant institutions’ suggesting a pardon was at least considered.

Although the statement by the government goes some way to allaying the concerns about possible futures for a man who has terrorised the state for years, questions remain. All agree that Ehsan surrendered voluntarily, and it is unlikely that he would have done so without some sort of undertaking regarding his future. A promise of a trial in a military court is unlikely to have been much of an inducement to give himself up. Then there is the question of his failure to present himself in any court, civil or military. Undoubtedly, he will have been seen as a considerable asset by intelligence agencies as he is the institutional memory of elements of the Taliban that is many years old. He has knowledge in depth and detail and he will be mined for that. That is unlikely to be a quick process depending on his level of cooperation, but it is not acceptable that he not be arraigned — the public has a right to know and see the man who is admittedly responsible for the deaths of so many. The production of a video-tape is not the same as a court appearance and should not be touted as such. A lack of transparency quickly gives rise to a fishy odour. An arraignment, please.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2018.

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