Diplomatic row over delay in handover of SP’s body by Kabul

Updated November 16, 2018

Email

Police personnel pay their respects to the late SP Tahir Khan Dawar at the Police Lines Peshawar on Thursday. — Abdul Majeed Goraya / White Star
Police personnel pay their respects to the late SP Tahir Khan Dawar at the Police Lines Peshawar on Thursday. — Abdul Majeed Goraya / White Star

PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD: Following a two-day delay and hours-long negotiations on Thurs­day, the Afghan side reluctantly handed over the body of the slain officer of Peshawar police to his family, sparking a diplomatic row.

SP Tahir Khan Dawar, head of city police’s rural circle, was kidnapped in Islamabad on Oct 26 and his body was recovered in Afghan­istan’s Nangarhar province on Monday.

The body was taken to the city police headquarters in Malik Saad Shaheed police lines, where his funeral prayers were offered. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, Governor Shah Farman, Minister of State for Interior Shahryar Afridi, and police and military officials attended the funeral prayers. The body was later sent to his Hayatabad residence on the outskirts of Peshawar.

Soon after his body was handed over at Torkham it was placed in an ambulance parked near the border crossing. It was then shifted to Landi Kotal amid tight security with a large number of official vehicles escorting the ambulance.

PM Imran orders probe into abduction, killing of SP Dawar; army sees bigger plot behind the incident than just a terrorist activity

From Landi Kotal the body was flown to Peshawar by helicopter parked at an army camp since early Thursday morning. The local administration and Khyber Rifles had adopted strict security measures both at the Torkham border and the road from Peshawar leading to Landi Kotal.

A delegation of tribal elders and family members of the slain police officer were stopped from proceeding to the Torkham border at the Bhagiyarri checkpost, some eight kilometres west of Jamrud on the main road. Torkham border too was closed for all types of vehicular and pedestrian movement throughout the day. The handing over of the body took place at around 4.15pm.

Spat

The issue of handing over of the body of SP Dawar flared up a diplomatic row as government officials accused the Afghan side of playing politics over a body and delaying its handover. Speaking at a press conference at the Chief Minister House following his return from Torkham, Shahryar Afridi said the Afghan officials violated diplomatic norms by creating hurdles in handing over the body of the martyred police officer.

“Attitude of the Afghan authorities was insulting and intentionally delayed handing over of the body for more than two hours,” he regretted.

“Our Foreign Office will take up this issue with the Afghan government,” he said, adding that the Pakistan government owned this brave officer, but ironically the Afghan officials had made some silly demands at this critical time. He, however, denied giving details of the demands.

The minister said the body of SP Dawar was not handed over to Pakistan’s Consul General in Jalalabad which was against diplomatic norms. He said that he along with KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai went to Torkham on the directives of the prime minister to receive the body with full state honours.

“We were kept waiting for more than two hours at Torkham and the coffin of Tahir was placed around 100 yards away from the border line,” Mr Afridi said and alleged that Afghan government tried to make it a political issue and create anarchy in the country. “Delay in handing over of the body put a big question mark on the role and policy of the Afghan government,” he said.

Ahmad Din, younger brother of SP Dawar, was also present at the press conference. He demanded that the government take the murder of his brother to a logical end and bring the culprits to justice. “My brother laid down his life for the motherland and we are proud of him. But the government must take this case to its logical end,” he said.

Responding to the demand, Shahryar Afridi promised that the government would take this case to its logical end. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan would chair a meeting in Islamabad at 3pm on Friday.

In reply to a question, he said that kidnapping of SP Dawar in Islamabad was a very sensitive matter. He said an FIR was registered on Oct 28 and the martyred police officer’s family confirmed that he did not have a mobile phone when was kidnapped.

Sources told Dawn that the Afghan side had refused to hand over the SP’s body to the Pakistani side comprising Shahryar Afridi, Shaukat Yousafzai and KP government spokesperson Ajmal Wazir and insisted on giving it to the leadership of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM).

An official said that as the negotiations continued the body remained there on the Afghan side for more than an hour. After this, a Jirga comprising the Khyber deputy commissioner, PTM leader Mohsin Dawar and two brothers of the slain officer crossed over to the Afghan side and body was handed over to them.

Meanwhile, PTM leaders and workers held demonstrations in Swabi and Buner in protest against the killing of SP Dawar in Afghanistan and demanded an independent inquiry into the incident.

Probe ordered

The government ordered a probe into the abduction and killing of SP Dawar, as the army suspected that there could be bigger plot behind the incident than just a terrorist activity.

Prime Minister Imran Khan led the government reaction by announcing the investigation. “Have followed the shocking tragedy of the murder of SP Tahir Khan Dawar and ordered KP government to coordinate with Islamabad police in holding an inquiry immediately. MOS Interior Shahryar Afridi has been tasked to oversee it with urgency and present the report to me,” Mr Khan tweeted.

A previously little known group claimed responsibility for SP Dawar’s abduction and killing through a note found along with his body.

The retrieval of the body did not happen smoothly adding to the existing acrimonious tinge in the bilateral relations.

The Foreign Office in a statement issued after the body had been repatriated pointed to the difficulties faced in getting SP Dawar’s remains back.

“Afghan Cd’A [charge d’affaires] in Islamabad was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs twice yesterday, and again this afternoon to register our strong protest over the inordinate delay and manner of return of the body. Written and verbal demarches were made, which resulted in the visit of an official delegation to Afghanistan, who brought it back to Peshawar this evening,” the statement said.

FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal expressed the hope that the problems in retrieval of the body notwithstanding, Afghanistan would cooperate in “ascertaining the circumstances under which a Pakistani police officer was found killed in Afghanistan”.

Military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor added to the controversy by alleging that there could be a bigger plot than was initially suspected. “His abduction, move to Afghanistan, murder and follow-up behaviour of Afghan authorities raise questions which indicate involvement or resources more than a terrorist organisation in Afghanistan,” he said, possibly pointing to Afghan state institutions’ complicity.

He urged the Afghan authorities to cooperate with Pakistan in border fencing and bilateral border security coordination to deny use of Afghan territory against Pakistan.

Zulfiqar Ali in Peshawar and Ibrahim Shinwari in Landi Kotal also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2018