Taliban officials behind ex-governor's escape?
By AIMAL KHAN - Pakistan's Frontier Post 03/29/2000
PESHAWAR - Though the mystery of disappearance of former Herat governor, Islmail Khan, along with Abdul Zahir Khan is yet to be unfolded, there are strong indications to suggest that their escape was planned by certain Taliban officials.
Reliable sources, who requested anonymity, told The Frontier Post on Tuesday that the Taliban officials had bargained the release of Islmail Khan and Abdul Zahir Khan against an unspecified amount which might be in millions of US dollars.
The sources further disclosed that the Taliban intelligence officials had held extensive negotiations with some relatives of Islmail Khan and Abdul Zahir Khan, the son of former Governor of Ningrahar province of Afghanistan, Haji Abdul Qadeer Khan.
There were four main points, which, according to sources, came under discussion between students militia's intelligence officials and the relatives of missing Afghan leaders.
They, interalia, included the payment of a handsome amount in US dollars to the intelligence officials. However, there were differences over the mode of payment.
The Taliban intelligence officials demanded payment of reportedly US dollars one million in Peshawar. On the other hand, the relatives of Islmail Khan and Abdul Zahir tried to convince the Taliban intelligence officials of meeting their demand in Zahidan, Iran.
The sources further disclosed that the Taliban intelligence officials had also pressed payment of money first and release later.
The other side expressed reservations on this pre-condition and instead pressured the Taliban officials to first release the captives and then get paid.
Another condition, which most probably was accepted by the Taliban according to the sources pertained to the safe and secure crossing into Iran of Islmail Khan and Abdul Zahir. The relatives of both pressed Taliban to accompany the two to the Afghan-Iran border.
It is to be recalled that former Herat governor, Mohammad Islmail Khan and another detainee, Abdul Zahir Khan, went missing from the heavily-guarded prison controlled by Afghan Intelligence outfit since last Sunday morning.
The Taliban officials in Islamabad, meanwhile, have denied any deal for releasing Ismail Khan and Abdul Zahir. They said that the inquiry into the incident was in progress and it would be premature to comment over the issue at this stage.
At the same time, the relatives of Abdul Zahir Khan in Peshawar have also expressed ignorance about any deal for the reported escape of Zahir from Taliban.
Earlier, Mir Wais Sadiq, son of former Herat governor had termed the escape of his father from the Qandahar jail a drama staged by Taliban. He had expressed complete ignorance about the whereabouts of his father, and feared for lives of Ismail Khan and Abdul Zahir.
The former governor of Ningrahar, Haji Abdul Qadeer Khan also told a Peshawar daily that he had come to know about the escape of his son from Qandahar jail from the Taliban sources.
He had feared that the Taliban might have killed his son.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have already launched a haunt for the two missing people and a prison guard, Hikmatullah. Taliban have so far arrested some 15 people suspicions of their involvement in their escape. Among the arrested person some are the Taliban officials. A high-level probe into the matter has also been launched.
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