The government had decorated him for showing extraordinary courage in the face of terrorists, suicide bombers, and hardened criminals.
But authorities and the family of Tahir Dawar, a senior police officer in northwestern Pakistan, are struggling to determine his whereabouts after he mysteriously disappeared in the capital, Islamabad, on October 26.
His brother Ahmaduddin Dawar says police officials in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province assured him they are doing their best to locate his brother, who was serving as a superintendent or senior police official in the regional capital, Peshawar.
“We are very grateful to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police because they are doing their utmost to find him,” he told Radio Mashaal. “They are exploring all possible avenues to trace him, but so far we have no clues.”
Ahmaduddin says his brother’s mobile phone was switched off on the evening of October 26 but was briefly turned on early the next morning to send his family a brief message.
“The message said, ‘I am near Sarai Alamgir at Jhelum (a city near Islamabad in the eastern Punjab Province)’,” he said. “Although it came from his phone, we don’t think it was him who sent that particular message because it wasn’t his style of writing. That was the last we heard from him.”
Tahir joined the police in 1995 as a junior officer and rose through the ranks to become superintendent of police in Peshawar to spearhead suburban operations in the sprawling city of more than 4 million people.
Mohammad Zafar Ali, a deputy inspector general in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, says police in the province are deeply troubled over the disappearance.
“Tahir was a capable and diligent officer. We are very worried about how suddenly he went missing,” he told Pakistan’s private Hum News TV. “He was an outstanding officer who had survived two suicide attacks and had been awarded with the top prize for bravery.”
Tahir earned his reputation while serving with the police in Bannu. The dusty city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa borders his native North Waziristan tribal district, where the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies practically ruled for more than a decade. The militants had moved to the region following a U.S.-led military intervention dislodged the hard-line Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan in late 2001.
One of his guards sacrificed his life to protect Tahir from a suicide bomber in 2009. Islamabad awarded him the Qauid-e Azam Medal, the top decoration for police officials showing extraordinary courage. During that time, he also sustained grave injuries after a shootout with criminals near Bannu.
He represented Pakistan in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. “He is a real asset to the police force [in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa],” Ali said.
He says Tahir’s elderly mother, wife, and seven children are anxiously awaiting his return. “His youngest daughter, Fatima, repeatedly asks everyone when her father is coming back,” he said.
While his family and police officials are reluctant to accuse anyone in relation to his disappearance, activists in Bannu and North Waziristan have been vocal.
Noor Islam Dawar, leader of the Youth of Waziristan, an activist group, alleged that Pakistan’s powerful spy services are holding Tahir. “Is this the reward for his honesty, bravery, and professionalism: to be kidnapped?” he told protesters in Bannu on October 28.
It was not possible to immediately seek comment from Pakistan’s intelligence services or powerful military. But in the past the military has strongly rejected claims that its secret services are involved in large-scale disappearances.
In recent years the enforced disappearances of suspected Islamist militants, separatists, activists, and civilians have provoked major protests and numerous court cases. International rights watchdogs have called on Islamabad to address the issue. In addition, a government-appointed commission established that thousands of Pakistani citizens remain missing.
Ahmaduddin says that given his brother’s contributions, he hopes Tahir will be soon reunited with his loved ones.
“My brother has endured a lot while serving the government of Pakistan,” he noted.
Radio Mashaal correspondent Umar Daraz Wazir continued reporting from Bannu, Pakistan.