In a Pashto verse composed and recited by Mohammad Tahir Khan Dawar, he laments the loss of everything that was dear to him and his people in his native area.
Not many people knew that this police officer belonging to North Waziristan was also a Pashto poet. It is only after his mysterious kidnapping and brutal murder that his poetry has surfaced and put on the social media.
Poets are sensitive souls and so was Tahir Dawar, the superintendent of police serving in Peshawar. His village, Khadi, and its surroundings in North Waziristan had been devastated by militancy and military operations. His people were displaced when the Zarb-e-Azb military operation was launched against the local and foreign militants in North Waziristan in June 2014 and their return home took longer than anticipated. The repatriation, resettlement and rehabilitation are still underway and the tribal people in the post-militancy period are struggling to come to terms with their new way of life.
Tahir Dawar went missing in Islamabad on October 26 and his body was found on November 14 in Dur Baba village in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province. During these 18 days, the federal and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governments remained clueless as to his whereabouts. Tahir Dawar’s colleagues in the police department in their own limited way tried to locate him, but the KP Police and the Islamabad Police failed to identify and track down the kidnappers.
There were speculations and rumours galore because the government remained tight-lipped about Tahir Dawar’s disappearance. The government’s helplessness could be judged from the fact that Minister of State for Interior, Shahryar Afridi, upon being asked told the media that he cannot comment on the incident as it is a sensitive issue. This contributed to deepening the mystery as the people tried to make their own conclusions about Tahir Dawar’s fate. A pro-active approach by the government would have reassured Tahir Dawar’s family and tribe that it was seized with the issue and was taking steps to trace him.
Finally on November 15, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that he had ordered an immediate inquiry into “the shocking tragedy of the murder of SP Tahir Khan Dawar.” He said the KP government would coordinate with Islamabad Police to hold the inquiry. As the prime minister is also the Interior Minister, he tasked his Minister of State for Interior Shahryar Afridi to oversee the inquiry with urgency and present the report to him. No timeline was mentioned in the tweet for completing the probe while the words ‘immediate inquiry’ used by the prime minister earned criticism as critics felt this should have been done when Tahir Dawar went missing or pictures of his tortured body started circulating on the social media a few days ago.
It is obvious that Tahir Dawar’s kidnapping in Islamabad and shifting him to Afghanistan with apparent ease have raised serious questions about the effectiveness of the roadside security checkpoints in the federal capital, Punjab, KP and the erstwhile Fata. The border controls have also come under focus as the government says Tahir Dawar was taken to Punjab from Islamabad and shifted from Mianwali to Bannu in KP before being moved to Afghanistan.
This story would need to be verified because Tahir Dawar’s body was found by villagers in Nangarhar province, which is adjacent to Pakistan’s Khyber and Mohmand tribal districts and could be easily reached via the Torkham border town. Though many Pakistanis, including prominent ones like Salmaan Taseer’s son Shahbaz Taseer who was kidnapped from Lahore and Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son Ali Haider Gilani who went missing in Multan, were also shifted all the way to Afghanistan, Tahir Dawar’s case is more complicated as he was seized in Islamabad and reportedly murdered on the Afghan soil at a time when the security situation in Pakistan has improved compared to the past when other such incidents took place.
The biggest challenge for the government, in particular the security institutions, is to provide answers to the many questions being highlighted by the deceased senior cop’s family, colleagues and tribe with regard to the incident. The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) led by Manzoor Pashteen gave a call for protest and mobilised its cadre all over the country to demand answers to queries as to how Tahir Dawar was kidnapped from Islamabad and taken to Afghanistan.
The Afghan government inserted an element of confusion and unease to the already tense situation by insisting that it would hand over Tahir Dawar’s body to his tribe or to the PTM leaders, including lawmaker Mohsin Dawar, at Torkham on November 15. It had earlier delayed delivering the body for two days by arguing that it wanted to conduct postmortem on it instead of quickly handing it over to the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. This prompted Pakistan to lodge a protest with the Afghan government through its embassy in Islamabad and provoked Shahryar Afridi to accuse hostile elements of trying to destabilise Pakistan.
Major General Asif Ghafoor, the head of the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), also commented that the abduction of the brave cop Tahir Dawar, moving him to Afghanistan, murdering him and the subsequent behaviour of the Afghan authorities raised questions about indirect involvement or use of resources that were more than a terrorist organisation could make available. Though he didn’t directly blame the Afghan government in line with Pakistan’s past policy, it was obvious he was asking questions as to who could be the mastermind behind the incident.
The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) angrily denied its involvement in the incident and even threatened the sections of the media that reported that this group had claimed responsibility for Tahir Dawar’s abduction and murder. The Islamic State, or Daesh, has yet to make claim of responsibility through its official news agency, Amaq. The note found with Tahir Dawar’s body in poor Pashto with the claim of responsibility by Daesh is being questioned as the group makes all its claims through Amaq and not in this manner.
The already uneasy relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan could become even more unfriendly if they fail to cooperate to work out the Tahir Dawar case.