Afghan man on Taliban death list refused asylum

Sultan Mahmood is under a death sentence from the Taliban. The torture they inflicted on him has led to a leg being amputated. His teenage son was kidnapped and beheaded. A school he ran has been burned down.

But the British Government has now decided that the 70-year-old former army officer will be safe back in Afghanistan and he must go back. He has been told by the UK Border Agency that he has until 10 June to leave after his application for asylum was rejected.

The Independent learned of Colonel Mahmood's predicament from Whitehall officials with knowledge of the current situation in Afghanistan. They believe that he will face very real danger of being harmed back in his country.

Col Mahmood was refused asylum despite doctors from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture saying they were convinced he had been subjected to extreme physical abuse and was now suffering from serious mental trauma. The judge at his immigration tribunal stressed that he accepted Col Mahmood's account of his ordeal as "credible and genuine" and recognised that the former officer "has a major disability and major psychological illnesses". The authorities, he acknowledged, would not be able to protect him if he returned to his home village.

However, in his ruling on 5 March, Judge Elvidge concluded that although he had "great sympathy for the appellant" he would have to apply the law as it stands. Col Mahmood, he stated, should be sent to the Afghan capital Kabul. He accepted the Home Office's argument that "the objective evidence is that while the Taliban are growing in strength and influence, there is still sufficient state protection in Kabul".

The Afghan capital has experienced seven major Taliban attacks in the last year, including one on a United Nations guest house in which 11 people were killed, leading to the organisation evacuating all but essential staff from the country.

Col Mahmood's brother, Shah Wali, who lives in London, went to Kabul two years ago. During his visit he was shot in the stomach. Shah Wali Mahmood presented evidence of his injury to the tribunal which was accepted by the judge.

Col Mahmood, who has been in England for three years, says there is no one in Kabul who can support him. His wife, Bibi Khanam, and their three daughters fled to Pakistan after the murder of their son which followed the demand of a local Taliban commander that one of the daughters should be given to him in marriage.

Col Mahmood was a member of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, a Marxist organisation, while serving as helicopter pilot in the Air Force. After the government was overthrown in 1992 he left Kabul with his family for the village of Zamankhail, a place named after his grandfather, in Wardak province.

The Taliban took over Wardak from the Mujahideen in the mid 1990s, and their local leader, Mullah Sabir, told Col Mahmood that he must start flying helicopters for the Talibs in impending operations. His refusal led to imprisonment and torture. His right leg was so severely damaged that it had to be amputated above the knee.

Col Mahmood continued to live in Zamankhail, keeping a low profile. He seemed to have been left alone by the Taliban who no longer had any use for him as a pilot because of his disability.

In 2001, after the overthrow of Mullah Omar's regime following the invasion led by US and British forces, Col Mahmood was asked by the village council to open a school in the area which would offer girls' education banned under the Taliban.

As the security situation deteriorated in Afghanistan resurgent Taliban infiltrated back into Wardak. "Night letters" began to appear threatening those associated with the school unless it was shut down and, soon afterwards, his son was abducted.

According to Col Mahmood, and the witnesses who appeared for him in the immigration tribunal, a local elder carrying out negotiations with the insurgents told Col Mahmood that a senior Taliban commander promised his son's return in exchange for his elder daughter Deva, then aged 15.

Col Mahmood and his wife refused the demand. His son, Mohammed Zaman, was subsequently beheaded, and his mutilated body left in a sack outside the school, which was later burned down.

Col Mahmood said yesterday: "I am very afraid for the future. I have not been able to sleep properly since I was told that I would have to leave. The judge said he believed me and all the people who spoke up for me. So I do not understand why they are doing this to me."

His solicitors are seeking leave to appeal against the decision.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing