PESHAWAR- “Thanks to Almighty Allah, I have returned home. Taliban did not torture me, but being away from home is itself a torture,” Islamia College University Vice Chancellor Prof Ajmal Khan who has been recovered after four years from Taliban’s captivity said Friday. Ajmal Khan who had been kidnapped by unknown armed persons on September 7, 2010, reached home on Thursday night after the security forces secured his safe recovery from North Waziristan Agency.
Sources said the security forces and intelligence agencies had been trying to locate Ajmal Khan since his kidnapping from Peshawar while on his way from Professors Colony to the university. “I can’t explain how it is to see my children after four years,” the delighted vice chancellor said. “Taliban did not torture me, but being away from home is itself a torture,” he held. He said he could not express his feelings when he joined his family again after a long time. “I am very happy,” he added.
Before his release, he had appeared in several video messages, asking the government to negotiate with Taliban for his safe release. He did not utter a single word how he was recovered. He, however, thanked the current and previous governments and the security forces over their efforts for his recovery.
“They respected me. They never harmed me. It was on the day-one that they fastened me and my driver with chains. But it was only for 30 minutes or so for which they apologised later,” he stated. “During the abduction, the first eight months were hard enough because I was not allowed to contact my family by phone. But, later, I was allowed to have telephonic contact with my family quiet frequently,” he said. “Two-years back when my driver was freed I hoped one day I would also be freed. But I was not freed,” he said.
During this four-year captivity, he remained busy in teaching kids and reciting the holy Quran. “At the start, I taught two kids of grade II and III. Later, it became a kind of school as number of students of middle level rose to 32. “I taught them English, mathematics, social study and others subjects,” he explained.
While narrating his detention days, Ajmal Khan, 63, said he spent most of his time in South Waziristan Agency. At first he was with TTP, but after a clash between the Taliban groups, he was handed over to Mehsud group headed by Sajna. “Taliban had given me a radio set on which I listened to news and current affair programs, which kept me informed of the national and international situation,” Ajmal Khan told reporters with a smiling face.
He said Taliban had provided him with all the necessities like food and medicines. However, proper doctors were not available in the area. He went on to say that only local medical practitioners were there, who were called in when needed, but they were unable to treat diseases like hypertension, diabetes and others. “I faced health problems only when provision of medicines delayed. They brought medicines from Peshawar, Bannu or Dera Ismail Khan,” the vice chancellor said.
“I never met the sons of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and late Punjab governor Salman Taseer. However, people used to say they are with Al Qaeda,” he said. “I am committed to opening sub-campuses of Islamia College University, Peshawar, in all the tribal agencies. The state of education in the tribal areas is pathetic. There is extreme backwardness in Waziristan, which I observed during my captivity. I want to play a role for promotion of education there,” he asserted.
“There is a great need of education in Fata. During my captivity, I, thought of opening sub-campuses of Islamia College University in North and South Waziristan Agencies,” he said. Ajmal Khan said that after the launch of the military operation, he was shifted from house to house.
He was guarded by two militants, he added.
A large number of people from different walks of life, including vice chancellors of different universities, teaching fraternity, lawmakers and students, thronged his house to felicitate him on his recovery. Members of civil society, academicians and university teaching staff as well as students had protested against Ajmal Khan’s kidnapping many times, but all efforts to recover him remained fruitless.
Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and KP Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser welcomed the safe and secure recovery of Ajmal Khan and paid tribute to the relentless efforts and sacrifices which the security forces made to make it possible. They also congratulated the students and the teaching staff of Islamia College University on the safe release of Ajmal Khan.