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February 21, 2011

Imam was killed last month for spying


February 21, 2011

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had in fact killed Colonel Sultan Amir Tarrar alias Colonel Imam, a retired officer of the ISI, on January 22, 2011 while charging him with spying for American and the Pakistani intelligence agencies and aiding them to launch drone strikes in North Waziristan to kill Commander Hekeemullah Mehsud and his deputy Waliur Rehman.
Those in the Pakistani security agencies investigating Imam’s murder claim that he had actually been killed last month in Dandi Darpakhel area of Miramshah, the capital of North Waziristan, when Pakistani television channels flashed the news of him having been shot dead. The sources said the abductors, who used to call Imam’s family members in the past to enable them to talk to him, had stopped calling since then, indicating that he had already been killed. They added that Imam seemed to have been buried somewhere in the largely lawless tribal region and it is only now that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has managed to release his video. The sources said during their last trip to North Waziristan in March 2010 shortly before being abducted, Squadron Leader (R) Khalid Khawaja and Colonel (R) Imam had a meeting with Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman along with a British journalist who wanted to interview them.
There are those in the TTP circles who allege that after their secret meeting with the key Taliban leaders, the former ISI officials had passed on precise information about their location to the Pakistani and American intelligence. Consequently, they say, ten drone strikes were carried out by the Americans between March 8 and March 30, 2010 in the North Waziristan Agency alone, specifically targeting the hideouts of Hakeemullah and Waliur where the meeting had taken place. Hakeemullah and Waliur had narrowly escaped these strikes. That is why, the investigators say, Hakeemullah deemed it fit to get Imam executed in his presence. Both the ex-ISI officials were subsequently abducted while the

US drone attacks were still on. However, the family circles of both the slain ISI officers strongly refute the allegation.
Actually, it was Usman Punjabi alias Mohammad Omar who had invited Khawaja and Imam, along with British journalist Assad Qureshi to North Waziristan to help them make a documentary about Taliban and victims of the drone attacks by the CIA-operated spy planes. They were kidnapped upon their arrival in Mir Ali, the second major town in North Waziristan, on March 26, 2010. Usman alias Omar later claimed responsibility for their kidnapping and accused them of working against the interests of the Pakistani Taliban since July 2007’s Operation Silence conducted by the security forces against the Lal Masjid clerics — Ghazi brothers. The investigators say the leaders of the Pakistani Taliban — both Pushtun as well as Punjabi — which are working in tandem for several years now, used to despise Colonel Imam and Khalid Khawaja for their support to Afghan Taliban and opposition to the Pakistani Taliban.
Those investigating Imam’s murder reminded that a day after Khalid Khawaja was killed by his captors on April 30, 2010 in North Waziristan, Usman alias Omar had declared as spokesman for the Taliban Media Centre that he was executed because he used to call the Punjabi Taliban terrorists and refer to the Afghan Taliban as mujahideen. Explaining the Taliban decision to execute Khawaja, he also said that all major militant organisations operating in the Waziristan region unanimously agreed to punish him and everybody wanted him to be executed as he had confessed to all the charges levelled against him by the Taliban court.
Imam’s close family circles say he had travelled to North Waziristan on a back channel mission to get the Taliban militants to agree to a ceasefire with Pakistani security forces. In an email sent by the Asian Tigers soon after the abduction along with a video footage of the kidnapped persons on April 23, 2010, Colonel Imam was heard saying: “My real name is Sultan Amir and I had served in the Pakistan Army for 18 years, 11 of them in the ISI. I had consulted General Aslam Beg about coming to North Waziristan”.
In the same video, Khalid Khawaja had said: “I had served in Pakistan Air Force for 18 years and in the ISI for two years. I came here on the prodding of Lt Gen Hameed Gul, General Aslam Beg and ISI’s Colonel Sajjad”.
In yet another video released on July 25, 2010, Imam said he was in the custody of the Abdullah Mansoor group of the Lashakr-e-Jhangvi Al Alami, adding that he could face a punishment worse than Khalid Khawaja if the government did not accept the kidnappers’ demands.
Immediately after their abduction, the ameer of the Afghan Taliban Mulla Mohammad Omar had sent a message to the Pakistani Taliban to release Imam and Khawaja. However, Usman Punjabi refused to listen and killed Khawaja besides releasing journalist Assad Qureshi after getting a huge ransom amount. On what to do with Imam, the Taliban were divided in two groups. Eventually, those led by Sabir Mehsud killed Usman along with five of his accomplices. The issue was then brought to Hakeemullah Mehsud, who took Imam into his custody and executed Sabir Mehsud for killing Usman. Since then, the Pakistani security forces had been trying to establish a channel of communication with Mehsud for the release of Imam. There are reports that Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil, the chief of the banned Harkatul Mujahideen, was the key mediator who finally failed to save Imam because of the failure of the authorities to fulfil any of the captors’ demands.
Colonel Imam was a top commando of the ISI who had trained Afghan mujahideen in camps jointly run by Pakistani and American agencies. He was widely respected by the Afghan Mujahideen and by the Afghan Taliban due to his role during the Afghan jihad against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. He had been Pakistan’s consul-general in Herat when the Afghan Taliban captured the city in 1995 from Commander Ismail Khan, who had later claimed that Colonel Imam used to oversee the whole Taliban operation. Afterwards, he had guided the Taliban as they took over strategically important Afghan cities of Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad, before eventually capturing Kabul. Imam only left Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent invasion of the country in October 2001 by the US-led allied forces.

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