For ten days in a row, protesters staging a sit-in at the Pak-Afghan Highway passing through Charwazgai, a locality of the tribal belt in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, demanded justice for Adnan Shinwari, a local youth who had been murdered in an encounter by a special force operative of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in Regi.

A similar protest was held last week in Peshawar and Charsadda. In Peshawar, the family of the slain Munsif Khan allege that Khan was a gunman for the SHO of the Sharqi police station in Peshawar. Khan was picked up a month ago, after which the family received word that he had been killed in a firefight in Regi. Likewise, protesters in Charsadda claimed that Syed Azizullah, also known as Salar Zaheerullah, was forcibly taken from his home 2 months ago. His corpse turned up in Regi. This is not the first operation in which the final piece of the puzzle remains missing.

Prior to these events, an operation conducted in a home in Hayatabad, Peshawar, in which all evidence of the incident was erased with the use of explosives, remains a riddle to this day. With the way these incidents played out, the truth becomes harder and harder to ascertain because the murderkeep multiplying and there is no conclusive investigationWhen the dust had only started to settle on the operation in Regi that Javedullah Khan, a member of the peace committee in Swat who had aided the armed forces in their investigations, was gunned down at the banks of the Swat River by unknown persons.

Most surprisingly, Rahimullah Khan, the security personnel assigned to Javedullah Khan by the police, who was present at the incident, returned fire but the killers managed to escape. Javedullah Khan had not only opened the doors to his home to the armed forces during the operation in Swat, but also encouraged others to support the army. Army personnel used to praise him and even referred to him as their “Major”. Who killed Javedullah and why is a question that his family did not receive the answer to for the 13 other members of his family killed before him.

The story does not end there. ISwat and Dera Ismail Khan, that have been strongholds of terrorist groups , the situation appears quite dire. 14 terrorist attacks took place in Dera Ismail Khan last year in which a total of 18 people lost their lives and 25 were injured. A similar situation is being seen in Dir, Swat and Buner. Even for the seat of governance of the province, Peshawar, incidents of small-scale bomb attacks are now cropping up. The situation in South Waziristan is especially dismal where bodies keep piling up. Target killings by unknown persons in South Waziristan have been on the rise since last year, however these incidents rarely ever receive any attention due to lack of reporting in the region.

On one hand is the sudden spike in target killings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and on the other is the US-Taliban agreement in Afghanistan, and the situation arising from it which, under any circumstances, cannot be ignored. There is an estimated 10,000 Daesh fighters of various nationalities currently residing in Afghanistan. Similarly, the presence of the Khorasan group and, more importantly, disagreements amongst various Afghan stakeholders makes the situation more complicated for the start of an intra-Afghan dialogue. The recent attacks launched by the Taliban in Afghanistan post the American-Taliban deal indicates that the Taliban are on the rise in the region. Is everything as simple and straight forward as it seems or is there something more to this than meets the eye? Because among those so callously murdered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there were many who were keepers of secrets. Their murders and the mystery shrouding it throws up many questions.