Colonel Imam

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Amir Sultan Tarar
Nickname(s) Colonel Imam
Born Chattal, Chakwal District, Pakistan
Died North Waziristan, Pakistan
Allegiance Pakistan Pakistan
Service/branch  Pakistan Army
Years of service 1974–1994
Rank Colonel pak army.jpg PAK Colonel[1][2][3]
Unit 15FF Regiment
Special Service Group
Commands held 7th SSG Reconnaissance Regiment
Battles/wars Soviet war in Afghanistan
Civil unrest in Afghanistan
Afghan Civil War of 1996
Pakistan War in Afghanistan
Awards Sitara-e-Jurat
Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Military)

Colonel Sultan Amir Tarar (died January 2011), best known as Colonel Imam, was a Pakistan Army officer and special warfare operation specialist. He was a member of the Special Service Group (SSG) of the army, an intelligence officer of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and served as Pakistani Consul General at Herat, Afghanistan.[4] A veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, he is widely believed to have played a key role in the formation of the Taliban, after having helped train the Afghan Mujahidin on behalf of the United States in the 1980s.[5]

Colonel Imam, who was a commando-guerrilla warfare specialist, had trained Mullah Omar and other Taliban factions. Colonel Imam remained active in Afghanistan's civil war until the 2001 United States led War on Terrorism, and supported the Taliban publicly through media.[5]

He was kidnapped along with fellow ISI officer Khalid Khawaja, British journalist Asad Qureshi[6] and Qureshi's driver Rustam Khan on March 26, 2010. Khawaja was killed a month later. Qureshi and Khan were released in September 2010. Imam was killed in January 2011.[7][8]

Education and military career[edit]

Imam was a graduate of Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) in Kakul (located near Abbottabad in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan), and of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, United States. After his graduation from PMA, he joined the Pakistan Army's 15th Frontier Force Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was sent to the United States in 1974, and was trained shoulder-to-shoulder among with United States Army Special Forces. Upon his graduation from the Special Forces School, he was awarded American Green Beret by his training commander. Following his return to Pakistan, Imam joined the Special Service Group (SSG). In the 1980s, he participated in Soviet war in Afghanistan, notably the Battle for Hill 3234. Colonel Imam was increasingly involved in Afghanistan's politics even after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. After the Soviet-Afghan war, Colonel Imam supported and trained Taliban fighters independently. It was alleged even in the 2000s that he still independently supported the Taliban independence movement in Afghanistan.[9] He was a disciple of Ameer Muhammad Akram Awan, the current sheikh of silsila Naqshbandia Owaisia.

He was according to some deeply respected amongst Afghan leaders unlike some other Pakistani leaders dealing with Afghanistan.

Relationships with United States[edit]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Colonel Imam was invited to the White House by the then President George Herbert Walker Bush, and was given a piece of the Berlin Wall with a brass plaque inscribed: "To the one who dealt the first blow."[10] In the 2000s, Western intelligence agencies believed Imam was dead among a group of renegade officers from Pakistan's ISI who continued to help the Taliban after Pakistan turned against them following the attacks of September 11, 2001.[11]

Authentic knowledge about Colonel Imam[edit]

Little is known of Amir Sultan Tarar's true history or operational profile as an agent of the ISI. Most information about 'Colonel Imam' was generated by his own admission, as well as news media speculation. Pakistan's secrecy over internal and external security, plus the code of conduct of Pakistan Armed Forces personnel serving in sensitive institutions, prevents such details from being available or verifiable. In 2010, however, he gave interviews to foreign and domestic journalists in Rawalpindi.[5]

Imam's initial objective, pre-taliban and post Mujahedin infighting after Soviet withdrawal were unclear and his objectives at that time were just to find new friends for Pakistan from where to operate later, such as Akhaundzada of Helmand who had a blood feud with Hikmatyar and was a warlord with 17000 men under command.

It was the claim of Col.Imam that Soviets when in Afghanistan had put a 200 million Afghani bounty on him. He also claimed that when he presented operational details to Aslam Baig after Gen.Zia's death about anti-soviet struggle, the later was surprised as to the extent. In Cathey Schofield's book "Inside Pakistan Army" Col Imam admits meeting Osama Bin Laden in 1986.

Kidnapping and Execution[edit]

In March 2010, Colonel Imam, former ISI officer Khalid Khawaja, journalist Asad Qureshi and Qureshi's driver Rustman Khan were abducted by an unknown militant group which called itself Asian Tigers. Khawaja's body was found near a stream in Karam Kot in April 2010 with a note attached saying he was with the CIA and ISI, about seven kilometres south of North Waziristan’s main town of Mirali. Qureshi and Khan were freed in September 2010.[12]

Imam was executed in captivity, as documented in a video released by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. The video shows the group’s then-chief Hakimullah Mehsud.[13] Both the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban were purportedly against the execution.[14] Imam's captors refused to release his body to his family unless a ransom was paid. Mehsud was killed in a drone strike on November 1, 2013.[15]

His captors used the name of "Asian Tigers" which was unusual for Taliban. This has led to numerous questions. He was shot seven times, the third shot being the fatal one in the head.[16]

His travelling companion's association with Red Mosque incident whose planning and funding was unknown is believed to be significant.


  1. ^ Video on YouTube
  2. ^ Video on YouTube
  3. ^ Mohammed Omar#In hiding
  4. ^ Matinuddin, Kamal(1999) The Taliban Phenomenon: Afghanistan 1994-1997 p 63. Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0-19-579274-2, ISBN 978-0-19-579274-4
  5. ^ a b c Carlotta Gall (3 March 2010). "Former Pakistani Officer Embodies a Policy Puzzle". New York Times. 
  6. ^ "No clue of Brit filmmaker kidnapped in Pak". The Gaea Times. April 8, 2010.
  7. ^ Perlez, Jane, "Onetime Taliban Handler Dies In Their Hands", New York Times, 25 January 2011, p. 6.
  8. ^ "Former ISI official Col Imam killed in North Waziristan". The Nation. 23 January 2011.
  9. ^ Mission: Difficult By Rory Callinan/Tarin Kowt Thursday, January 24, 2008. TIME magazine
  10. ^ Walsh, Declan (12 May 2011). "Whose side is Pakistan's ISI really on?". The Guardian (London). 
  11. ^ "Taliban will never be defeated, says Pak ISI agent". Rediff. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  12. ^ "Former ISI official Col Imam killed in North Waziristan". The Nation. 2011-01-23. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  13. ^ "Taliban release video of killing of Col Imam". LiveLeak. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  14. ^ Unity among North Waziristan militant groups crumbles, Dawn, 28 Apr 2011
  15. ^ Infante, Francesca (2 November 2013). "Taliban leader is killed in US drone strike but his number two is named as replacement within hours". Daily Mail (London). 
  16. ^ Video on YouTube