A senior Pakistani official has told the country's lawmakers that Ehsanullah Ehsan, the former spokesman of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), both U.S.-designated terror groups, will be tried in a military court.
Responding to a Senate inquiry regarding the fate and status of Ehsan's case, Talal Chaudhry, the minister of state for interior affairs, made the announcement Friday to the upper house of parliament.
Military courts were established in 2015 to provide faster and more efficient trials of suspected terrorists and their facilitators following a deadly Taliban attack on an Army Public School in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The attack resulted in the deaths of more than 130 people, the majority of whom were children.
Ehsan was TTP's spokesman at the time of the attack.
"Relevant institutions have decided not to pardon or release Ehsanullah Ehsan," Chaudhry reportedly told the Senate. He assured lawmakers that Ehsan would be tried in accordance with Pakistan's laws.
Chaudhry's assurance to lawmakers came amid speculation that Ehsan might be pardoned or released. On Friday, though, Chaudry tried to put lawmakers at ease by emphasizing that the government has zero tolerance for terrorists.
This was not the first time that questions had been raised about Ehsan's fate in government's custody. Last year in December, a court in Peshawar issued an order, barring Ehsan's possible release. The court instructed the government to keep the suspect in captivity and continue with his interrogation.
Ehsan reportedly surrendered himself to Pakistan's intelligence agency last year in April. He then confessed on a video released by Pakistani authorities that he had been involved in terror activities and took responsibility for orchestrating a series of deadly terror attacks on behalf of JuA and TTP across Pakistan.
In the video, Ehsan also alleged that Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies had provided operational and financial assistance to the TTP and JuA to launch deadly terror attacks inside Pakistan.
Both New Delhi and Kabul denied the allegations at the time and charged that Ehsan's confession had been orchestrated by Pakistan's intelligence agency in an effort to shift the blame to India and Afghanistan.
Who is Ehsan?
Ehsan's real name is Liaqat Ali, and he is from the semiautonomous tribal belt of northwestern Pakistan that shares a border with Afghanistan.
Ehsan reportedly joined Tehreek-e-Taliban in 2008 as a college student and eventually became the mouthpiece of the terror group.
When a faction of TTP parted ways with the terrorist organization and established JuA in 2014, Ehsan became that new group's spokesman.
JuA has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks in Pakistan, including a suicide bombing in Lahore Park during Easter last year that killed at least 70 people, the majority of them Christians.
The United States placed Jammat-ul-Ahrar on a list of specially designated global terrorist organizations in 2016. TTP was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 2010.
Source: Voice of America