The Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (PEMRA) on Thursday barred a private television channel – GEO News – from airing an interview of former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JUA) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan, saying that the law prohibits the glorification of terrorists. The widely advertised interview had raised an equally widespread controversy and the notification couldn’t have come sooner – for once PEMRA used its powers of censorship to block the kind of material they were designed to block.

It is understandable that Ehsanullah Ehsan is a high profile arrest, whose confessions regarding the role of the Indian spy agency in the militant threat in Pakistan is one that needs to be broadcast far and wide for the sake of national interest. It is also understandable that an interview purports to answer the burning questions surrounding his surrender and the extent of his organisation’s subversive activities.

However, it must not be forgotten who he is. Ehsanullah Ehsan has been the smiling spokesperson of two of the deadliest terrorist groups operating in Pakistan; he has unhesitatingly been part of plots that have murdered innocent civilians and even children and has then publically claimed them as glorious acts in the pursuit of his ideals. He is a monster, one of the most despicable individuals that have roamed the land, and no amount of strategic value justifies humanising an individual who has wrought so much pain and suffering on this nation. 

This is without considering the laws against ‘glorification’ of terrorists. Not giving him a platform is a norm of human decency; he should have been barred from appearing on television out of respect for the victims of TTP and JUA’s exploit. It speaks volumes about the insensitivity of GEO News that the parents of the APS Peshawar attack victims have been the most vocal in the protest against this interview.

The ‘glorification’ laws are plain and simple, and have been correctly applied by PEMRA. There is no telling what Ehsanullah Ehsan would have said or how he would have justified his actions and given reason for the atrocities he committed. No matter how flawed or illogical, the channel would have given a national platform to his views, which may have resonated with an unknown number of people, which could have reinforced their extremist notions. We have spent countless hours and rupees trying to bury this narrative for it to so easily appear on prime-time television.

Ehsanullah Ehsan may be a strategic asset at the moment, but he is a vicious terrorist too – the only time he should be on television is if he was being shamed and derided.