Ignoring the enemy within | Pakistan Today

Ignoring the enemy within

Ehsanullah Ehsan deserves no clemency

Is a self-confessed murderer being pardoned by the state just because he claimed to have worked for foreign intelligence agencies? Does this mean anyone who wants to be forgiven after shedding innocent blood should just appear on TV and issue a statement against RAW?

Ehsanullah Ehsan, a former spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who served the group for 10 years, recently surrendered to the Pakistan army. The military’s media wing then released his confessional video in which he revealed that Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies have been financing the TTP to carry out their violent activities in Pakistan. He further told that he joined the TTP in 2008 when he was a college student.

Ehsanullah Ehsan was the main spokesman for the TTP during the time terror attacks were at their peak. He used to call local TV channels and journalists to proudly claim responsibility for attacks on public places targeting innocent civilians. He would also issue threatening messages to civil society activists and media persons who were vocal against the TTP asking them to ‘mend ways or get ready to be killed’. Ehsanullah Ehsan confessed to all his crimes and admitted he was part of the group when they bombed cities and killed scores of Pakistanis, yet he is being shown as a reformed person who was merely misguided into doing what he did for years. It was only after the military had gained significant success in anti-Taliban operation that he chose to surrender. Not only are his crimes being overlooked, but journalists are also falling over each other to interview him. Thanks to PEMRA, an interview with him that was to be aired was stopped, but the fact that journalists think it is okay to give airtime to a terrorist, is disappointing. Isn’t this an insult to the countless innocent Pakistanis who were killed by the group he served?

We said we would never forget APS. We said we would avenge the blood of the kids who were mercilessly killed by these ruthless monsters. But we seem to have totally forgotten all that. We seem to have forgotten how the Taliban attacked a 14-year-old girl because she wanted to go to school and get an education. Ehsanullah Ehsan was the TTP spokesman when Malala Yousufzai was shot at, and he proudly claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban said they would target her again if she comes to Pakistan. There were several other attacks for which Ehsanullah Ehsan accepted responsibility and also explained the Taliban’s reason to carry them out. But as soon as he gave a statement against RAW, we started glorifying him as a hero. He did not surrender because he thought he is on the wrong path, he surrendered because he saw no other option.

The TTP says their fight is for the imposition of Shariah in Pakistan, and we are told RAW has links with TTP. Does this mean RAW wants to impose Shariah in Pakistan? The mind boggles.

Meanwhile, some media reports suggest that the former TTP spokesman would not face any terrorism case against him in any court of law including the military court because he returned after getting assurances from the security establishment and promised to share the ‘secrets of Taliban’. Is a self-confessed murderer being pardoned by the state just because he claimed to have worked for foreign intelligence agencies? Does this mean anyone who wants to be forgiven after shedding innocent blood should just appear on TV and issue a statement against RAW? This just goes to show that the long-standing narrative of the establishment, that foreign powers are responsible for all the security mess in the country, still exists. We lost over 50k Pakistanis at the hands of Taliban, yet we refuse to accept the fact that the threat is within. Why do we ignore the fact that there are groups within Pakistan that have been providing support to the Taliban mindset for years? If the foreign agencies helped Taliban with their violent activities in Pakistan, there were certain elements in the country that gave them the logistic support they needed, and that threat still exists.

A number of Taliban leaders arrested in the last few years were found to have links with religious parties of the country that have representation in the parliament. Then these parties should also be taken to task for their links with the foreign intelligence agencies since they have been supporting the TTP.

To jog the memory of the readers, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) had called Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2013, ‘martyr’ and PTI chairman Imran Khan had declared him ‘pro-peace’, terming his killing an attempt to sabotage the peace talks that were to be held with the Taliban. So these political parties had been supporting a group linked to the Indian intelligence agency this whole time.

It was only when of the high profile militants chose to surrender that we came to know of TTP’s links with RAW. Doesn’t this raise questions about the efficiency of the guardians of national security?

Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz openly challenges the writ of the state by teaching students of his seminary that ‘jehad’ is their obligation and encourages them to fight against the state, yet the police shy away from arresting him. The interior minister defends him in the parliament and criticises those asking for action against him. There are banned sectarian organisations in Pakistan that support the mindset of the Taliban yet they are allowed to operate with impunity – despite being ‘banned’. The interior minister not only justifies their actions but also holds meetings with them to assure them of the government’s support. We don’t seem to have a plan to deal with the threat of extremism and terrorism that exists within the country. The ‘plan’ that the government seems to be following currently is instead strengthening the outlawed groups.

There are banned sectarian organisations in Pakistan that support the mindset of the Taliban yet they are allowed to operate with impunity – despite being ‘banned’. The interior minister not only justifies their actions but also holds meetings with them to assure them of the government’s support

The authorities need to realise that without dealing with the monster of extremism at home, the fight against terror cannot succeed. Ehsanullah-type confessions do strengthen the establishment’s narrative, but it won’t be right to only focus on the terror groups’ foreign links and ignore the elements within Pakistan that continue to provide support to these terror groups. The threat is within – and about time we chalked out a strategy to deal with it.

Ailia Zehra

The writer is a former staff member who writes on counterterrorism and gender equality among other issues. She tweets at @AiliaZehra and can be reached at [email protected]



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