A former officer of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Sultan Amir Tarar, better known as Colonel Imam, has reportedly been killed by the Taliban on Sunday.
Though there is no official confirmation of his death, sources close to his family say they were informed about Col Imam’s killing by intelligence sources.
Col Imam, along with another former ISI official Squadron Leader (retd) Khawaja Khalid and British journalist Asad Qureshi, was seized by a lesser known Taliban group, Asian Tigers, while travelling to the North Waziristan tribal region on March 26, 2010.
Qureshi was released in September after paying a ransom of Rs20 million, while Khawaja was executed by his captors.
Gen (retd) Hameed Gul, a former ISI chief and a colleague of Col Imam, told the media that the kidnappers wanted to swap the two former spies with the terrorists who were arrested in connection with two high-profile terrorist hits in Rawalpindi.
Gul said the US and its private security firm Blackwater Xe could be involved in Col Imam’s abduction. However, he voiced doubt over the news of his killing. “I think it is a drama. The situation will become clear in the next couple of days,” he added.
Col Imam was reportedly killed by his captors and the body was dumped in the Dandi Darpakhel area, close to Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency.
Nonetheless, local residents said they have not seen the body.
A senior security official in Peshawar also refused to confirm the slaying. “We also have reports of his death, but we cannot confirm it,” the official told The Express Tribune.
Another Peshawar-based intelligence official also refused to confirm the report. “The Dandi Darpakhel area is adjacent to government quarters in the region dotted with security checkpoints. If there was any such thing, it would have been in our knowledge,” he added.
However, a relative of Col Imam told the media that intelligence sources had informed them about the incident.
Col Imam and Khawaja said in a video message released by the Taliban a month after their abduction that they were sent to Afghanistan by former army chief Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and former ISI chief Gen (retd) Hameed Gul.
The abductors had initially demanded the release of two arrested Taliban leaders – Mullah Kabir and Mullah Mansoor Dadullah – in exchange for the freedom of the two former ISI officials. The demand was made in an email sent to several Pakistani media outlets.
But later they added more demands and called for the release of those terrorists who were in custody of Pakistan’s security agencies in connection with attacks on the GHQ and Parade Line Mosque of Rawalpindi.
According to reports, Mullah Omar, the reclusive Taliban mentor, himself had campaigned for the release of Col Imam. It was due to Mullah Omar’s intervention that the Taliban did not kill Col Imam for several months, a source close to the Taliban told The Express Tribune.
The source also claimed that Col Imam had brokered a peace deal between the military and the Haqqani network chief Jalaluddin Haqqani, much before his arrest.
Col Imam had played a key role in training the Afghan Mujahideen during the Afghan jihad. He was in charge of the Mujahideen activities in different parts of Afghanistan. He maintained close ties with Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Waziristan.
“Mullah Omar and the Taliban are highly respected Muslim leaders,” Imam had said in an interview to a television channel, last year.
During his captivity, Col Imam had written several letters to Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and Lt-Gen Hameed Gul and some politicians to plead for his release.
Col Imam was a bitter critic of the United States which, he said, had left the Afghan mujahideen in the lurch after the defeat of the Soviet forces in the late 1980s.
A special warfare operation specialist, Col Imam had also once served as Pakistan’s consul general at Herat, in Afghanistan.
With additional reporting by Manzoor Ali in Peshawar
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2011.