Death of Colonel Imam

After the murder of ex-ISI man Khalid Khawaja in May last year and the release of journalist Asad Qureshi sometime later, the kidnappers have dealt with their third hostage, ex-ISI official Sultan Amir Tarar, known to most as Colonel Imam — ‘the godfather of the Taliban’. There is some obscurity in regards to his death; some reports claim that the militants killed him due to his family’s inability to pay the ransom and some claim that he died of a cardiac arrest. Whatever the case, the colonel’s body is still in militant custody. Khalid Khawaja was killed by a relatively lesser-known group of terrorists called the Asian Tigers, believed to be a sectarian extremist group affiliated with the Punjabi Taliban. It is believed that the Colonel was handed over to some other group but all these claims are as murky as the deaths themselves.Whatever the cause of Colonel Imam’s death, the fact remains that the ISI’s jihadi protégés have turned on their masters. It is no longer a simple relationship that exists between the two — the militants working subservient to their masters. A number of incidents where the security forces have been the targeted by militants corroborate this argument. Now individual ISI officials who had direct links with the jihadists have been eliminated. Colonel Imam was a controversial figure because, even in retirement, he staunchly advocated for peace talks with the Afghan Taliban. The fact that he was kidnapped and is now dead signals some deep divides between the militants and the ISI, and also points towards the nexus between the Afghan Taliban and the homegrown variety of militants as the Asian Tigers initially demanded that key Afghan Taliban leaders being held in custody be released.

In the wake of Colonel Imam’s death, the military in Pakistan may have little choice but seriously consider starting a full-blown operation in North Waziristan. The deaths of both Khalid Khawaja and Colonel Imam have shown just how incapable the security forces are in controlling the militants that are now thriving within the country’s borders. The military is committing a strategic suicide by siding with the Afghan Taliban, and the deaths of two of its own ought to awaken key military and intelligence officials out of their jihadi-nurturing death wish – Dailytimes