The brutal murder of a high-ranking police officer who was abducted in Islamabad and taken to Afghanistan has raised serious concerns about the growing involvement of external hands in Pakistani affairs.
Superintendent Tahir Dawar, who was head of Peshawar police’s rural area circle, was kidnapped from the federal capital Islamabad on October 26. On November 13, a picture of his tortured dead body surfaced on the Internet. Later it was confirmed by the Afghan authorities that Dawar was found dead in Afghanistan and that he was killed by an unknown extremist outfit.
The Director-General of Inter Service Public Relations ( ISPR), while condemning the murder, expressed the Pakistani military’s concerns and hinted at a possible foreign element being involved.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has also ordered an inquiry to find out how such a senior official was kidnapped and taken to Afghanistan. While the brutal killing of Dawar has raised serious questions about security, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) in the Pashtun tribal areas held the security agencies responsible for the murder.
The abduction of a senior police officer from the capital raises serious questions concerning the law and order situation and the ability of the state to protect citizens. Dawar was a brave officer who survived two suicide attacks by terrorists. The fact that he was so easily abducted and taken to Afghanistan is a serious matter, and the law enforcement and spy agencies need to find out who was involved. It is impossible for an extremist outfit or a foreign spy agency to kidnap a high-ranking police officer without the help of local collaborators, and one hopes that the authorities will soon sort this out.
However, claiming that hidden hands from the military establishment were involved is not a logical conclusion, nor does it serve the purpose of finding out if external hands played a role.
Dawar was a supporter of the Pashtoon Tahfuz Movement, which is using his abduction and murder to its advantage. The problem with the PTM is that it is so blinded by its hatred of the army and security agencies that it never wants to see the other side of the picture. The PTM’s leaders and activists think Dawar was killed because he was a supporter of their movement. However, they do not realize that if this were the case, there were better ways to silence him than taking him to Afghanistan to be murdered by an extremist outfit.
Since the news has spread across the country, the segment of the urban educated class that supports the PTM is criticizing the military and its spy agencies for their failure to protect people like Dawar, and many among them see this murder as a security establishment conspiracy. This is not the first incident; every time a citizen goes missing or is killed, ordinary citizens start questioning the security agencies. This has engendered a perception that the intelligence agencies have abducted the people who have gone missing.
However, the security agencies and military top brass do not act like this. The security agencies only keep an eye on suspicious people to make sure that the law and order situation does not deteriorate. Most of the time they are not concerned with the critics; however, the people involved with banned extremist outfits, or are being used as tools by the external hands, are sometimes picked up for interrogation in an effort to expose the network they work for.
The military certainly has no policy of abducting dissidents. Dawar’s brutal killing in Afghanistan can only benefit Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) and was likely revenge for the death of Afghan police chief Commander Abdul Raziq Achakzai, who was targeted by the Afghan Taliban last month.
The Afghan Taliban are considered to be aligned with Pakistani interests in Afghanistan, hence Pakistan’s involvement in the murder of Raziq was suspected by the Afghan authorities. The murder of Dawar will give the PTM an opportunity to gain political capital by organizing more public gatherings and protests against the military and security agencies. This will eventually serve the interests of external hands seeking to destabilize and defame the military of Pakistan, as the venom the PTM spits at the military helps sow division within the ranks of the Pashtuns against Pakistan.
In the great game of Afghanistan, Pashtuns from the tribal belt and from Afghanistan have been backing Pakistan, and the CIA and regional spy agencies have been trying to divide the Pashtuns to use them against the Pakistan Army in order to achieve their strategic goals in Afghanistan.
The PTM needs to revisit its strategy of bashing state institutions for the sake of political gain. The criticism and protests cannot bring a solution to any problem and one needs to sit at the table to resolve conflicts. If the PTM is serious about solving the Pashtuns’ problems it needs to sit down with the authorities to discuss them, instead of just bashing the security agencies and the military.
Coming back to Dawar’s brutal murder, there is no possibility that Pakistani agencies were involved. Criticizing the security agencies without any evidence will only serve the interests of external hands, and it seems the abduction and murder of Dawar were carried out to achieve this goal. It is very easy to criticize the military and security agencies for occasional security mishaps, but very few people realize that these institutions quietly thwart hundreds of efforts to sabotage the peace within the country.
Criticizing the military establishment for its unnecessary role in politics or for using hardline religious groups to counter the external hands in Afghanistan may be justified, but bashing the military and security agencies, alleging that they are abducting our own citizens, is an entirely different thing.
When we talk about the freedom of expression, we also need to realize that with this freedom comes a great deal of responsibility. The Tahir Dawar case is not that simple and since it potentially involves external hands and elements of the media and the civil society, Pakistan needs to also look closely at the harsh realities in the global game that is being played in Afghanistan.
Imad Zafar is a columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.