ISLAMABAD: The opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and an independent lawmaker from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas on Monday sought an explanation from the government over the “mysterious escape” of former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan from the custody of a security agency, demanding that the matter be referred to a parliamentary committee for investigation.
The issue was raised by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement-backed independent MNA, Mohsin Dawar, while speaking on a point of order in the National Assembly and then PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar took up the matter and questioned the government’s silence over the issue.
When the two opposition legislators raised the issue, only a couple of ministers were present and they preferred to remain silent.
When the matter was raised soon after the Maghrib prayers break, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Imran Khattak was presiding over the sitting in the absence of both the speaker and the deputy speaker.
Lawmakers seek parliamentary probe; Bilawal asks how the culprit behind APS tragedy, Malala attack could flee the country
“How can you sweep the issue of the escape of Ehsanullah Ehsan under the carpet?” Mr Qamar said, asking the government to tell the nation whether he had been released under a deal or had slipped from the hands of the security agencies.
“Tell us even if you have a deal with the US,” he went on.
The PPP MNA recalled that the government had made huge publicity at the time of his capture, claiming to have nabbed an “international criminal”.
“What will be your answer if a question about it is raised at the FATF meeting? What kind of a state we are running?” he asked.
Mr Qamar termed it a serious issue, saying that if Ehsanullah Ehsan could slip from the “highest security cover”, then this exposed the “level of alertness”.
“What is safe (in the country)?” the PPP legislator remarked while asking the chair to either form a special committee or refer the matter to the house committee concerned as it was the right of parliament to know the facts. He suggested to the chair that keeping in view the sensitivity of the issue, the committee could meet in camera.
“The sanctity of the house demands that parliament should be taken into confidence. Do not bypass the parliament,” he said.
Earlier, Mr Dawar posed three questions before the government in connection with the reported escape of the TTP man.
“In which case, Ehsanullah Ehsan had been arrested? Before which court was he presented? And in which prison had he been detained?” Mr Dawar said, regretting that the issue had been reported a few days ago, but there had been no explanation from the government.
When the MNA asked the chair to refer the matter to the committee, Mr Khattak said he would take a decision only after receiving a response from the government.
PPP lawmaker Abdul Qadir Patel pointed out lack of quorum when he was not given the floor by the chair and all the opposition members left the house. After finding that the house was not in order due to lack of quorum, the chair first suspended the proceedings for a brief period and then adjourned the sitting till Tuesday evening, when the assembly will hold a debate on the country’s economic situation.
Later, talking to reporters at the Parliament House, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that escape of Ehsanullah Ehsan was a proof of the government’s “incompetence and failure.”
“How a person facing charges of attacks on the Army Public School (APS) and Malala Yousafzai can flee the country?” he asked.
“The government will have to give a reply. Was it in complicit or incompetent?” he said, stating that the consequences for the country were grave in both the situations.
Terming it a “failure of the state”, he said how it would face the victims of terrorism in the country.
“Why was no JIT formed for the APS tragedy? The affected of the tragedy are still demanding a judicial commission. How can we tell the international community that we are combating terrorism when the biggest terrorist of the country has fled the country?” he said.
Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2020