Colonel Imam

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Amir Sultan Tarar
Birth nameAmir Sultan Tarar
Nickname(s)Colonel Imam
BornChattal, Chakwal District, Punjab, Pakistan
Died23 January 2011
Mir Ali, North Waziristan, FATA, Pakistan
Allegiance Pakistan
Service/branch Pakistan Army
Years of service1966–1994
RankOF-6 Pakistan Army.svg US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier[1][2][3]
Unit14/13 Frontier Force Regiment
Commands heldCO Parachute Training School
Battles/warsIndo-Pakistani war of 1971
Soviet–Afghan War
War in Afghanistan
SpecialForcesTabMetal.jpg U.S. Special Forces Tab

Brigadier Sultan Amir Tarar, best known as Colonel Imam, (died January 2011) was a one-star rank army general in the Pakistan Army, and a former diplomat who served as the Consul-General of Pakistan at Herat, Afghanistan.[4]

Amir Sultan Tarar 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–Afghan War, 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", as Tarar was also known, was a commando-guerrilla warfare specialist, and trained Mullah Omar and other Taliban factions and leaders. 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]

Tarar 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. Amir Sultan Tarar was killed in January 2011.[7][8]

Education and military career[edit]

Amir Sultan Tarar 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 the graduation from Pakistan Military Academy, he joined the Pakistan Army's 15th Frontier Force Regiment as 2nd Lieutenant. Amir Sultan Tarar was sent to the United States in 1974, and was trained among with United States Army Special Forces. Upon his graduation from the Special Forces School, Amir Sultan Tarar was awarded American Green Beret by his training commander. Following his return to Pakistan, Amir Sultan Tarar joined the Special Service Group (SSG). In the 1980s, he participated in Soviet–Afghan War. Colonel Imam, as he became known, 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.

Relationships with United States[edit]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Amir Sultan Tarar 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 Colonel 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 Amir Sultan Tarar[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, Amir Sultan Tarar gave interviews to foreign and domestic journalists in Rawalpindi.[5]

Tarar's initial objective, after the Mujahedin infighting after Soviet withdrawal and before his involvement with Taliban, were unclear; 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.

According to Colonel Imam's own claims, 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 General Zia's death about anti-soviet struggle, the later was surprised as to the extent. In Cathey Schofield's book Inside Pakistan Army, Colonel Imam admitted 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]

Colonel Imam was executed in captivity, as documented in a video released by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.[citation needed] Both the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban were purportedly against the execution.[13] Colonel Imam's captors refused to release his body to his family unless a ransom was paid.


  1. ^ Video on YouTube
  2. ^ Video on YouTube
  3. ^ Mohammed Omar#In hiding
  4. ^ a b 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". The 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", The New York Times, 25 January 2011, p. 6.
  8. ^ "Former ISI official Col Imam killed in North Waziristan Archived 2011-01-25 at the Wayback Machine". The Nation. 23 January 2011.
  9. ^ Mission: Difficult By Rory Callinan/Tarin Kowt Thursday, January 24, 2008. Time.
  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. Archived from the original on 2011-01-25. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
  13. ^ Unity among North Waziristan militant groups crumbles, Dawn, 28 Apr 2011