Pakistan’s High Court halts release of ex-Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan

Peshawar High Court asks state to continue investigation following petition that he be tried in a military court

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Peshawar High Court has barred the government from releasing former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan. The court asked the state to continue the investigation of Ehsan and forbade his release on any grounds. The ruling came on Wednesday after concerns that Pakistani authorities might release Ehsan.

The decision was taken by a two-member bench of the court comprising Chief Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ijaz Anwar. The bench also directed the government to inform the court when investigation is completed in cases against Ehsanullah Ehsan.

The court issued these directives in a writ petition of Fazal Khan, a practising lawyer and father of Sahibzada Umar Khan, one of the 132 students killed in the December 16, 2014 Army Public School massacre — worst terror attack in Pakistan’s history.

Fazal Khan sought orders of the court to restrain the government from granting clemency to Ehsan, and instead try him in the military court.

In a detailed response to the court, the government said it would continue to keep Ehsan under custody and investigation.

The lawyer further added that Ehsan had accepted responsibility for the terrorist attack on the Army Public School, which is also confession of the terrorism act.

Ehsanullah Ehsan, who had been associated with TTP and later its splinter group, the Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA), reportedly turned himself in earlier this year.

Who is Ehsan?

Liaqat Ali, commonly known as Ehsanullah Ehsan, belongs to the Mohmand Agency of the northwestern tribal region of Pakistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan.

In early 2008, he reportedly joined TTP as a college student and later became TTP Mohmand Agency spokesman and then central spokesman of TTP. When a faction of TTP parted ways with the terrorist organisation and established Jammat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) in 2014, Ehsan became that newly created group’s spokesman.

TTP and JuA have claimed responsibility for some of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including 2014 Peshawar school massacre and 2016 bombing in a park in Lahore during Easter that killed at least 70 people.

Pakistan’s military announced the capture of Ehsan in April 2017.

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