ISLAMABAD: Former ISI official Sultan Ameer Tarar, commonly known as Col Imam, is still alive and in the custody of Taliban insurgents somewhere in the Waziristan tribal region.
The media had reported last month that Col Imam was executed by the lesser-known Taliban group, Asian Tigers, in North Waziristan after the government turned down their demands.
However, sources told The Express Tribune that Col Imam was alive and his family is negotiating with the captors to secure his release.
A group of the Taliban, which had close ties with Col Imam during the ‘jihad’ against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, is trying to broker a deal, the sources added.
The abductors have demanded Rs50 million and the release of some of their jailed associates in return for Col Imam’s freedom. The government has rejected the demands, forcing his family to pool the amount on their own. They are hoping that the abductors might settle for ransom money only.
The family has decided to sell out its house in Lahore. But the money would not be enough to meet the abductors’ demand. Therefore, some family friends have also agreed to contribute money.
It is believed that the abductors are not executing Col Imam because of his close links with Taliban chief Mullah Omar and other senior militants.
Col Imam, along with another former ISI official Squadron Leader (retd) Khawaja Khalid and British journalist Asad Qureshi, was seized by the Taliban while travelling in 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.
Last month, the media reported that Col Imam was also killed by his captors. But former ISI chief Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Gul had suspected the veracity of the news.
A source told The Express Tribune that the three were abducted while they were returning after interviewing Qari Hussain, the Taliban trainer of suicide bombers, in North Waziristan.
The Taliban suspected that Col Imam and his associates were spying for American CIA to guide drone attacks in the region.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2011.
More in KP & FATAHealth workshop: Scaling up best practices in family planning