A day after the news of an apparent brutal murder of a senior Pakistani police office first emerged, the case is still shrouded in mystery.
As officials prefer to remain vague at most over the killing of Tahir Dawar, questions, anger, and speculations surround the murder, which followed his kidnapping from the capital, Islamabad, on October 26.
Lawmaker Mohsin Dawar confirmed that Tahir had been murdered and his body was being transferred from eastern Afghanistan to northwestern Pakistan, where he will be buried.
On November 13, alleged photos of Tahir’s mutilated corpse went viral. A handwritten note reportedly found alongside his body claimed he was killed by the Islamic State (IS) militants. The ultra-radical group has carved out a safe haven in the region since 2015.
But Mohsin is not convinced. He holds the Pakistani state responsible for failing to protect a senior police officer who had survived several attacks by militants, including two suicide bombings.
“For more than 15 years, we have seen this deceptive drama that people are murdered and then their corpses are left with a note from militants,” he told Radio Mashaal. “We will not be deceived. How was he taken from Islamabad [to Nangarhar]?”
Mohsin represents Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s North Waziristan tribal district in the National Assembly or lower house or the Pakistani Parliament. Tahir, too, was a native of North Waziristan. Dawar is a Pashtun tribe whose members mostly live between the towns of Mir Ali and Miran Shah in North Waziristan.
“There are hundreds of [surveillance] cameras in Islamabad and there are numerous check posts between Islamabad and the Afghan border [nearly 250 kilometers away],” Dawar said. “Ordinary citizens are humiliated daily along these check posts, but how can no one notice a kidnapped senior police officer?”
Shehryar Afridi, junior interior minister, declined to comment. "It is a matter of national security and someone's life, and cannot be discussed in an open forum," he told journalists on November 13.
But on November 14, Islamabad acknowledged that the slain officer’s body was being transported from Afghanistan.
“[The] Afghan Foreign Ministry confirms recovery of a body with the service card of SP [Superintended of Police] Mr. Tahir Khan Dawar,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement on November 14. The service card is a government identity card that carries the bearer’s name, rank, and photograph.
The statement said the Afghan Foreign Ministry had informed the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul that locals found the body in the remote Dur Baba district of eastern Nangarhar Province, which shares a border with northwestern Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
Later that same day, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s information minister, Shaukat Yousafzai, said the authorities were expecting to receive Tahir’s body on November 15.
Islamabad’s cautious handling of the situation has raised many questions.
Journalist Syed Talat Hussain says that Pakistan has fenced off its nearly 2,500-kilometer and once-porous western border with Afghanistan in recent years.
“We [Pakistan] are trying to convince the world that no illegal cross-border activity is happening from our country, so [cross-border] terrorism is nearly impossible,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “But then we are unable to save a police officer who is killed across the border.”
Since 2001, Afghan and U.S. officials have accused Islamabad of sheltering Taliban and allied militants while also bankrolling or turning a blind eye to cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies supporting the militants.
Hussain says Tahir’s gruesome murder will have far-reaching consequences. He mentions the January murder of Naqibullah Mehsud, an aspiring model who was killed in an alleged staged police shoot-out in the southern seaport city of Karachi.
“The murder prompted a massive protest in Islamabad outside the press club, from where the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement emerged,” he noted. “Now a [Pashtun] police officer has been abducted and brutally murdered, and no one has addressed [his family’s complaints].”
The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) or Pashtun Protection Movement has already announced countrywide protests against Tahir’s murder on November 15.
“We are determined to question and protest this murder in such a forceful way that this state is going to remember it forever,” Mohsin, also a senior member of the PTM, told Radio Mashaal.
Journalist Samiullah Dawar, a close friend of Tahir, is skeptical that Tahir was killed by IS or other Islamist militants because senior police officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had assured him on November 12 that Tahir was still in either Islamabad or the adjacent city of Rawalpindi. He says they had told him Tahir was safe and that his friend would soon be recovered.
“Most of the militant groups including the various factions of the [Pakistani] Taliban including the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan [TTP] have dissociated themselves from his murder,” he told Pakistan’s Dunya TV.
Samiullah cast doubt over the handwritten note claiming Tahir was killed by IS.
“As a journalist, I have a very good idea of how the militants operate. They are eager to claim the acts they commit,” he said.
Radio Mashaal correspondents Shaheen Buneri, Umar Daraz Wazir and Zaland Yousafzai contributed reporting to this story.