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Cabinet may discuss Ehsanullah Ehsan’s escape today

ISLAMABAD: Besides taking up key national issues, the federal cabinet may discuss the “mysterious escape” of former spokesman for the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Ehsanullah Ehsan from the custody of security agencies at its meeting on Thursday (today).

This was hinted by federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari during an exclusive chat with DawnNews on Thursday.

In reply to a question about reports of former TTP leader’s escape, Dr Mazari said though the issue did not fall in her ministry’s purview, “it will be raised and discussed in the Thursday’s meeting of the federal cabinet”.

The human rights minister said the issue of Ehsan’s escape basically fell in the purview of the Ministry of Interior and other security institutions. She, however, said there must be a strict security around the detained terrorists. Moreover, she said, there should be early convictions of terrorists facing trials.

The minister in a casual way stated that he had read reports about the former TTP leader’s escape. When asked whether there was any truth in such reports, he replied: “The news is true, it’s true.”

The minister said the state was aware of Ehsan’s escape, but did not provide details.

When asked what the state was doing on the matter, he said: “A lot is being done. You will hear a good news.”

The opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had last week rai­­­sed the issue of Ehsanullah Eh­­san’s escape in the National Assembly and Senate, respectively, and sought a response from the government.

The opposition parties had also demanded the matter to be referred to a parliamentary committee for investigation. However, despite presence of a number of ministers in the sessions of both the houses of parliament, no response came from the treasury benches on the issue.

Later, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also raised the issue during a news conference in Islamabad and questioned the government’s silence on the issue. He said the escape was a proof of the government’s “incompetence and failure”.

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior has already sought a report from the interior ministry on the escape.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari had also submitted a question to the National Assembly Secretariat, seeking the interior minister’s response to the issue on the floor of the house.

Earlier this month, the former TTP spokesman in a call to a Pakistani newspaper had claimed that he was in Turkey, along with his wife, son and daughter, but refused to say how he managed to reach there.

Ehsan’s escape was first reported by an Indian weekly newspaper on Jan 18 — barely a week after his escape. The report quoted “Pakistan-based sources” as saying that he had fled his ‘safe house’ where he was being kept along with his family.

Later, a short audio message purportedly recorded and released by Ehsan surfaced on social media. In the message, he disclosed that he had on Jan 11 managed to escape from the “custody of the Pakistani security authorities”.

Ehsan, whose real name is Liaquat Ali, said he had surrendered to a Pakistani security agency on Feb 5, 2017, under an agreement. He claimed that he had honoured his part of the agreement, but alleged that the Pakistani authorities had violated its terms and kept him in a prison along with his family.

Ehsan had claimed responsibility for the horrific attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar which left more than 140 people, most of them children, dead in December 2014.

Cabinet agenda

The Cabinet Secretariat already issued a 12-point agenda for Thurs­day’s meeting of the federal cabinet.

According to the agenda, the cabinet will consider giving “one time permission for import of insecticides from India” to fight ongoing locust attack on the country’s agriculture. The trade with India has been under suspension for more than seven months after New Delhi’s act of forcefully annexing occupied Kashmir in August last year.

The cabinet will also deliberate on gas pricing and power bills to comply with requirements of the Interna­tional Monetary Fund for disbursement of next tranche of $450 million.

The adviser to the prime minister on finance & revenue would also give a detailed presentation on regulatory duties and taxes on pulses in view of rising prices of essential food items.

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