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Top TTP leader Ehsanullah Ehsan turned himself to Pak Army: ISPR

20 April, 2017

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Islamabad: Addressing a press conference on Monday, Major General Asif Ghafoor, DG ISPR announced that Ehsanullah Ehsan, a former spokesperson and one of the top leaders of the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar terror faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), had turned himself in to Pakistan Army. General Ghafoor termed the surrender of "our biggest enemies" a big achievement for Pakistan. Although general Ghafoor did not share any further details about the surrender nor was anything confirmed by ISPR afterwards, but the announcement has been a matter of speculation among the terror watchers. ISPR had claimed on April 5 that eight important members of JuA had surrendered before the Army in Mohmand Agency. Only three names - Akbar, Gul, and Siraj - were revealed while no other details were shared. Some skeptics believe that Ehsan might have been one of those eight. While many others believe that Ehsan might have been captured during the special operations carried out by Pakistan security forces across the Pak-Afghan border. According to Afghan media, Pak forces had 'transgressed' on March 21 at least 3 km inside Afghan territory and attacked specific locations at the havens of TTP / Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. Although, he had stopped replying to the queries of media persons some time around March 14-15. He had been, previously, quite active in reaching out to the national and international media.

Ehsanullah Ehsan is originally from Mohmand Agency and claims to have a master's degree. Ehsanullah Ehsan is his second nom de guerre, the first one was Sajid Mohmand given by Hakimullah Mehsud, former TTP head who was killed in a US drone strike in November 2013. Ehsan had joined TTP in 2007 after the military operation on Lal Masjid in Islamabad. Soon after, he was given the responsibilities as spokesperson of the deadly terror outfit, which he continued to keep till July 2013 when he enraged Mehsud by giving statements against Afghan Taliban.

Following the disintegration of TTP in the wake of the death of Hakimullah Mehsud by a US drone strike in November 2013, the government lured major factions of TTP into the dialogue process at the beginning of 2014. The Mohamand chapter alongside some other smaller groups within TTP formed the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), which later committed many deadliest of attacks on Pakistani security forces and civilian targets. Ehsan was made JuA spokesperson right from the beginning of the organisation. However, after developing some differences with the JuA head Omar Khalid Khurasani, Ehsan was replaced by Asad Mansoor as the JuA spokesperson in February 2017. This, although, had not stopped Ehsan from remaining in contact with media persons. He was active on Facebook through his ever-changing accounts till early March 2017 when all his accounts were suspended.

Among the major attacks claimed by JuA through Ehsan as spokesperson are, IED blast in Quetta, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Lahore, killing of Punjab's Home Minister Col. (R) Shuja Khanzada; killing of nine foreign tourists in Gilgit-Baltistan; shooting in the head of Malala Yousafzai (calling her work an "obscenity" that needed to be stopped); suicide bombings on Shiites in Rawalpindi and Karachi; rocket attack on Bacha Khan International Airport; suicide attack on Wagah border; twin blasts in Mohmand agency (his home town in Safi tehsil), to name but few. On October 15, 2012, then Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, offered a Rs. 100 million bounty on Ehsan's head.

The significance of Ehsan's surrender cannot be over emphasized, as he had been the face of most lethal terror groups targeting Pakistan's security forces and civilians. Moreover, he is expected to spill beans under custody on TTP and JuA's links with Indian intelligence agency R&AW and Afghanistan's NDS. Back in 2014 when US forces had handed over a key TTP commander Latif Mehsud, Pakistan Army had released his video confession saying inter alia that his group's leader Omar Khalid Khurasani had the support of R&AW. Having worked closely with Khurasani, Ehsan is expected to know first hand about the support TTP and later JuA received from any foreign government including India and Afghanistan. It is, therefore, very likely that a confessional video of Ehsan might emerge in coming days with explosive revelations about possible links of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian Navy officer who was arrested from Balochistan in March 2016 while working under cover for R&AW.

Despite this great significance of the Ehsan surrender, a prominent section of Pakistan's civil society believes that instead of letting Ehsan enjoying life like Asmatullah Moavia, the top leader of Punjabi Taliban who had cut a deal with security forces for laying down arms in lieu of amnesty in 2015. Hamid Mir, senior journalist and TV presenter who survived an attack on his life in 2014, said while talking on his show that Ehsan needed to be prosecuted and punished for his crimes against Pakistan's civilians and security forces. It may be noted that in 2012, Ehsan had claimed planting a bomb in Hamid Mir's car.

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