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Video meant to show TTP chief Hakeemullah is alive
By Javed Aziz Khan
PESHAWAR – The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is saying that Col. Imam is dead, but many observers question the credibility of the video the TTP released February 19.
About 11 months after the kidnapping of Brig. (ret.) Sultan Ameer Tarar, known as Col. Imam, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) released a video that it claims shows the former ISI official's slaying in the presence of TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud.
That was followed by reports February 21 that Imam’s body had turned up on a street near Mir Ali. But his family had not received his body or any belongings as of February 24.
The TTP claimed responsibility for the murder of Col. Imam. In the video, filmed in an unknown, mountainous area, a militant shoots him five times as Hakeemullah watches. Some media had reported in 2010 that Hakeemullah had been killed.
Before the release of the video February 19, TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan called journalists to notify them of Col. Imam's slaying.
“The main purpose of airing the video of the murder of Col. Imam was to produce Hakeemullah Mehsud before the public and end controversy regarding his killing,” Deputy Bureau Chief of Mashaal Radio Khalid Khan told Central Asia Online.
Khalid, who covers events in tribal areas, expressed some doubts over the video’s authenticity as nobody has found the body of Col. Imam, nor has anything else has been heard about him after the video. If the video proves authentic, it will increase public anger with the TTP, he predicted.
Imam's body still missing
Officials in North Waziristan have searched the area where Col. Imam's body reportedly was dumped but found nothing, said an administration official who requested anonymity.
“The thing that creates suspicion is that the family of Col. Imam has yet to get the body to confirm he has been really executed and the video is real,” said Peshawar resident Saleh Mohammad.
Reports of Col. Imam’s death had emerged in late January, but militants released the video almost a month later, he said, adding that the corpse in the video after the shooting seems too bulky to be Col. Imam's.
“Videos of the flogging of women, slaughtering of foreigners and now the execution of Col. Imam, considered to be godfather of militants, are causing hate among the public against the brutalities of militants,” Saleh said.
Imam played a key role in organising and supplying militant groups to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The entire family is grieving until it can receive the body, Col. (ret.) Mohammad Safeer Tarar, brother of Col. Imam, said. “Until we receive his body, we cannot perform his last rituals. There cannot be more painful moments than this,” Col. Safeer was quoted as saying in The News.
“I think the TV channels should not air any such video that shows brutalities,” said Dr. Gohar Amin, a specialist in child health. “Millions of people including women and children watch TV daily so it has negative impact on them when these videos are aired.”
TV stations should broadcast more positive images to reduce social tension, he said.
Government won't comment about video
No one from the government has commented officially about the video.
The TTP is taking instructions from foreign countries that want to destabilise Pakistan, Brig. (ret.) Mehmud Shah, former Secretary Security FATA, said while commenting on the killing. Col. Imam was a friend of the Afghan Taliban and his death at the TTP's hands proves that militants in Pakistan are working for other powers, Shah added.
Some local newspapers also doubted the video of Col. Imam’s death. One newspaper quoted former ISI chief Lt.-Gen. Hameed Gul saying, “It appears to be a drama.” According to the paper, Gul said he spoke to Maj. Nauman, son of Col. Imam, and told him not to offer Fateha (prayers of mourning) for his father unless independent sources confirm the slaying.
Col. Imam disappeared in March 2010. He was travelling with another ex-ISI official, Squadron Leader (retired) Khalid Khawaja; Pakistani-British journalist Asad Qureshi; and driver Rustam Khan to North Waziristan via Kohat. Their team reportedly sought to film a documentary on the Pakistani Taliban.
Khawaja was killed a month later. His body was found in Karam Kot in April 2010 with an attached note accusing him of involvement with intelligence agencies.
The kidnappers released Qureshi and Rustam in September 2010, reportedly after payment of a substantial ransom.
Col. Imam was reportedly a special warfare operation specialist who served as a commando in the army’s Special Service Group and as an intelligence officer in the ISI. He later became Pakistan’s consul general in Herat.