THE kidnapping and murder of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa SP Tahir Dawar seem to have highlighted all the contradictions of the current state of play in the country.
Just look at the facts of the police officer’s case and you cannot but agree. He went missing from an Islamabad residential sector on Oct 26. It was two days later that anyone first heard that he had gone missing after arriving in the capital from Peshawar where he was posted.
When the news first appeared, it was clearly stated his family were concerned as he had texted them (reportedly in English when he usually texted home in Urdu) on the day of his disappearance not to worry and that he’d be back soon, before switching off his mobile.
Tahir Dawar was no ordinary man or policeman. He had immense personal and professional battles to fight.
On Oct 28, one of the top prime ministerial aides and his spokesman, Iftikhar Durrani, literally laughed away a VoA journalist’s questions regarding the missing police officer after saying Tahir Dawar was ‘safe and sound’ in Peshawar and rubbishing his kidnapping report.
Then, apart from the odd news item one read, there was complete silence till MNA Mohsin Dawar, associated with the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), raised the matter on the floor of the National Assembly. Even then, there was official silence and no acknowledgement of whether someone was looking into the matter earnestly.
Apart from Mr Durrani’s ill-informed attempt at sounding well informed, the only other word came from Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi who described the case as “too sensitive” to comment on. Not surprisingly, the attitude was seen as apathetic at best.
And then, more than two weeks later, one heard of the officer’s badly tortured and broken body being found in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province which borders our Mohmand and Khyber agencies and is situated near the Torkham crossing between the two countries.
It took another day and a half for his body to be returned to his country for his last rites as a hostile Afghan government decided to play politics in rather bad taste and delayed handing over his body to officials and his two brothers at Torkham for his funeral in Peshawar late on Thursday.
The military’s spokesman, who is usually on top of security issues, had not spoken on the matter till Thursday — perhaps because he was preoccupied elsewhere as one could see from his tweets — hinted at a wider conspiracy by hostile powers behind the kidnapping from Pakistan and the murder of the police officer on Afghan soil.
There may not have been conspiracies galore but there were definitely some doing the rounds including one theory that attributed a claim to the tribals on the Afghan side saying the body was found no more than a couple of hundred yards from a border security check-post.
However, there was no way to independently confirm this report where the implication was that the torture and murder happened somewhere on the Pakistan side and then the body was moved across in a heavily patrolled part of the border. Possible? Yes. Plausible? No.
So, let’s focus now on what we do know. Tahir Dawar was no ordinary man or policeman. He had immense personal and professional battles to fight. He lost his brother to the bullets of a murderer, and nearly lost a very dear and close relative to the lure of Taliban ideology.
It was his resolve, and at great financial cost, that he was able to get back this brainwashed young man from the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan and to bring him home before incurring another huge expense for the effort to de-radicalise him. Thankfully for him, the effort was successful.
Sources say Tahir Dawar was among a handful of KP police officers who dismantled the militant Islamic State group in the province when there were real fears that its insanely hard-line ideology would make inroads in the young population, particularly after the security forces’ successes against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
He survived two murderous attempts and was badly injured in a suicide bombing and yet survived to carry on his fight and took it to the TTP and IS as, coming from North Waziristan himself, he knew well what the spread of extremism meant for society and how it destroyed life.
It is intriguing that neither the TTP Khurasan (as was earlier claimed in some news reports) nor IS have claimed responsibility for his murder when he was someone who must have been a target for each of them.
There are videos available on social media where Tahir Dawar is saying that hostile foreign powers are trying to destabilise Pakistan and especially KP as they don’t wish to see CPEC reach its successful conclusion. In another interview, he is talking of the excellent coordination between the police and military intelligence agencies in the province.
At the same time, the anger witnessed at his funeral against the state was a wake-up call though some semi-official handles referred to the slogans as evident of the anti-Pakistan agenda of those acting at the behest of foreign powers.
While being at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, this brave son of Pakistan found it difficult to remain detached from the agony of his people as articulated by the PTM and was an overt supporter of the movement.
It would be agonisingly narrow-minded and small-hearted to see Tahir Dawar’s support for those articulating the heartbreak of their people, linked to elements of the current security policy (after having been on the receiving end of TTP brutality for decades) as anything but a legitimate concern.
A Peshawar-based analyst-friend told me he was very depressed at what is happening. “… people are extremely angry (at state apathy)and I don’t know how they (authorities) will put out this fire ... People are being taken to a limit where one has to choose between criticising the state for its incompetence and justifying, defending the rights of one’s people. Both cannot be done at the same time.”
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2018