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Taliban questions leader's death in Pak jail

May 07, 2012 10:06 IST

The rift between Pakistani secret agencies and the Afghan Taliban has widened further after reports surfaced that Taliban leader Ustad Yasir has dies in a Pakistani jail. Tahir Ali reports.

This is the second high profile death of an Afghan Taliban commander in the custody of Pakistani authorities after the death of Mullah Obaidullah Akhond, former Afghan defence minister (and a close friend of Mullah Muhammad Omar) who passed away in a Pakistani prison in 2010.

The Afghan Taliban has asked Pakistani authorities to clear its position over the reports of Yasir's death.

Born in 1953 in Wardak province, Yasir's real name was Zamarak, who liked to portray himself as a thinker and expert on theological and ideological matters. He also spoke Arabic and has made appearances on Arabic television channels.

Yasir was an active member of Islamic political party Jamiat-e-Islami and then Itehad-e-Islami during the jihad against the former Soviet Union. He returned to Kabul from Pakistan and announced that he would support the Taliban after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Later, he was arrested by Pakistani forces and handed over to Afghanistan, but was released on 18th March, 2007 in exchange for an Italian journalist kidnapped by the Taliban.

As he was released he said, "I will pick up a rifle again to begin a jihad to hunt down invaders and fight non-believers."

Yasir had many relatives and jihadist friends in Peshawar and he used to visit them secretly after his release. During such a visit in January 2009, he was once again detained by Pakistani intelligence agencies and put behind bars -- he was in still in prison until reports emerged about his death during captivity.

Contrary to Yasir's death inside prison, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security chief testified to the Afghan senate that some 25 key Taliban members have been executed by rival Taliban members.

"Yasir, a key ideologue for the Taliban movement, had been among those killed," NDS chief Lieutenant General Rahmatullah Nabil said.

Although Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid flatly rejected reports of any such clashes among Taliban ranks and termed such reports as baseless and nonfactual. The Afghan Taliban doubt that Yasir died in a Pakistani prison.

The Taliban in a statement has asked Pakistan to make it position clear over Yasir's death. Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesperson for the Afghan Taliban said, "Rumors have been swirling for the past several days that Yasir, has attained martyrdom under the imprisonment of the Pakistani authorities which has made the Mujahedeen of Islamic Emirate, the family of Ustad and all of his associates very distressed. He was apprehended in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on January of 2009."

Mujahid asked Pakistan, "Various other released prisoners have also told his family about his martyrdom; no information has been furnished by the Pakistan government; therefore the Islamic Emirate deems it necessary to demand clarification from the concerned authority to provide information about Yasir's fate so the matter becomes clear."

According to experts in afghan affairs such acts of arrest, all the deaths of Afghan commanders inside Pakistani prisons have created a gap between Pakistani secret agencies and the Afghan Taliban.

In February 2010, with the help of Pakistani agencies, American intelligence forces captured Mullah Omer's deputy Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, from Karachi; while prior to it on January 26 Mullah Abdul Salam and Mullah Mir Muhammad, two shadow Taliban governors in northern Afghanistan were also arrested from Faisalabad by Pakistani secret agencies.

It was one of the main reasons behind Taliban's direct involvement in talks with the US in Qatar. Though the talks failed due to some reasons but there was a clear message for Pakistani authorities that Taliban does not trust them anymore.

Image: Taliban leader Ustad Yasir

Tahir Ali in Islamabad