The Pakistani state has failed in protecting its citizens in Quetta

Published: August 11, 2016
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Lawyers react as they gather at the scene of the suicide attack on the Civil Hospital. PHOTO: AFP

The atrocities against the legal profession in Quetta

As our nation fast approaches its day of independence, the profession most closely associated with the struggle for freedom has paid the ultimate price. The blast at the Civil Hospital, Quetta, constituted not only a tragic loss of life, but an attack on the last defenders of the rule of law and the basic rights promised to us all on the eve of our independence. This will undoubtedly further bruise the morale of those earning their livelihood fighting for the rights of people protected under the Constitution of Pakistan.

The struggle for the restoration of the judiciary and fight against dictatorship would have been incomplete if it wasn’t for the sacrifices of thousands of Baloch lawyers including the likes of slain Baz Muhammad Kakar.

Within a span of a few hours, the cream of the legal fraternity of Balochistan took its last bow, many of whom succumbed to their injuries later while others continue to occupy different hospitals across the country.

A friend, Dr Kamal Ur Rehman Panezai, who is currently a trainee at the Surgical Unit of Civil Hospital, Quetta, narrated what he witnessed at the time of the blast with such pain that I do not even have the heart to put pen to paper. Upon my insistence of limiting emotion, he related the agonising junctures as follows:

“I’ve seen the worst cases as a doctor, but the incident that took place on Monday shook my existence. It was an act of atrocious brutality which slayed humanity in a cowardly manner. It ended up taking the lives of many loved ones.

After the dust of the blast settled, I saw countless people dead on the spot with blood splattered all over them. Hues and cries from everywhere were resonating in my ears and I felt helpless as our hospital didn’t have the capacity to cope with such massive damage to human lives. I was in a state of shock.

Amidst the chaos, I saw the dead bodies of my own friends, Arbab Gulzareen and Daud Jan, who were those who embraced martyrdom. Arbab got married four years ago and was a father of two. Daud, the son of a former minister, belonged to a very respectable family.”

One cannot even begin to imagine the ordeal the affected families must be going through. And what about those who had to bring home the janaza’s of five members of their clan? One such individual to whom I offered my condolences was my senior in the legal fraternity. Advocate Amel Khan Kasi studied at the University Law College, Quetta, alongside many of the victims of the blast. He expressed his grief to me and described the event as the biggest catastrophe that has befallen him and his family. Amel Khan Kasi said,

“The entire top two tiers of the legal fraternity in Balochistan have been wiped out and the remaining are crippled. We were already behind other provinces in terms of literacy and higher education, and now with this heinous incident, we have been pushed back further by decades.

Balocistan has suffered a lot, especially the Kasi tribe who had only a handful of accomplished lawyers, but they are no longer amongst us today. We have lost Malik Bilal Anwar Kasi, who besides being an advocate of the Supreme Court, remained the President of the Balochistan Bar Association and a member of the Balochistan Bar Council.

Dawood Kasi was another gem that we have lost. He was an inspiration for the youth of Quetta and remained the President of Balochistan Bar Association and was currently serving as the Member of the Balochistan Bar Council. Barrister Adnan Kasi remained the principal of the Quetta Law College and during his tenure as the principal, he did his best to encourage and help the youth flourish in the field of law in Balochistan.

Gul Zareen Kasi and Wazeer Kasi are amongst the young lawyers that we have lost. We have lost patrons like Baz Muhammad Kakar who remained the President of the Balochistan Bar Association twice and was also serving as a current member of the Balochistan Bar Council. We have lost Advocate Qahir Shah as well, who remained the General Secretary of the Balochistan Bar Association and Vice Chairman of the Balochistan Bar Council, as well as the General Secretary of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association. I lost so many of my friends and colleagues; colleagues who always stood up for the welfare and protection of the rights of lawyers, as well as the betterment of the judicial system in Pakistan. It takes decades to establish yourself as a lawyer and no one will be able to replace or fill this void.”

On various occasions, my seniors have praised the high morals and the exceptional work ethics of lawyers in Balochistan, most of whom who hailed from humble backgrounds, but had the drive and aspired for a more progressive Balochistan at par.

While those not directly associated with today’s martyrs may erringly assume and isolate the events of this butchery as only a loss to the legal fraternity of Balochistan, the incidents have led to far more casualties than we mostly ignorantly perceive. This is a time of mourning, not just for the families and friends of the victims, but also those clients whose only hope was those deceased lawyers. One can only begin to imagine the impact of these frightening incidents on the already existing backlog of cases in various courts and forums pending adjudication.

Many of those whom embraced martyrdom are revered today for their services towards the betterment of the people and the province of Balochistan. Dr Shabbir Rind has many fond memories of his dear cousin, Advocate Chakar Khan Rind. In terms of his contributions he said,

“Chakar Rind fought for the poor till his last breath. His tremendous services for the Mirani Dam affectees and his efforts for the construction of a protection wall for the left and right bank of Kech Kaur made Chakar a prominent figure. He filed a suit in the Balochistan High Court for the flood victims. He also approached the High Court for the allotment of a piece of land for the rehabilitation of flood affectees, which the government later wanted to develop as a housing scheme under the name of Mirani Housing Scheme. He was a social activist and was fast developing as a prominent political figure.”

It is indeed a sad state of affairs when ministers entrusted with the security of a province brush off such an unfortunate event as a mere “security lapse” and in the same breath conflictingly claim to have evidence of foreign involvement. Unabashedly, the incumbents continue to remain steadfast in occupying such posts. It is clear that a gap between the flow of information state organisations continues to exist even in a city where numerous agencies continue to operate.

It is certainly easy to issue statements on television and Twitter regarding the grave loss, however the powers that be, lack the mettle to step out unguarded by the taxpayers’ money. Many have shown no inclination to face adversity and persevere in the face of danger like those associated with the legal fraternity. Even after the blast, the lawyers displayed solidarity with their colleagues and selflessly carried out the responsibilities owed to them as citizens by the state.

If there was indeed so much evidence of foreign involvement, is it safe to assume that the tragic incident that took place on August 8, 2016 was not a mere lapse, but could in fact be termed as negligence on the part of the authorities bestowed with the power to take proactive measures to prevent the carnage that took place?

As if litigating against those with power and privilege did not already place Pakistani lawyers in jeopardy, it is clear that those enlisting to become members of the bar are volunteering to die with their boots on.

Without a doubt, foreign elements play a huge impact in the instability in Pakistan, but perhaps the time has come to accept, beyond a doubt, that there exist Pakistanis who are themselves against the sovereignty and sanctity of Pakistan.

There is a difference between a mere lapse and negligence. The state fell egregiously short of fulfilling its duty of care to those killed in the recent blast. Even today, just three days after this unbearable loss, Quetta was attacked yet again. Quetta itself is no stranger to attacks of this nature. On August 8, 2013, after SHO Mohibullah was shot dead, a suicide attack on the funeral procession and killed over 30 people, most of them were law enforcement officers. Earlier that year on January 11th, a suicide attack claimed the lives of 12 people and when a large number of people gathered the site of the blast, the second explosion took place resulting in increase in the death toll to over 80 lives and left over 100 injured.

It appears that in Pakistan, lawyers are not long for this world and that many of those individuals elected to serve and those appointed to protect continue to live in their safely guarded palatial homes and cruise with their entourage.

However, it must never be forgotten that Pakistanis are resilient people. All those innocent civilians that were martyred in Quetta and all over country in the past, have left behind a legacy and an obligation upon this gallant nation to come together irrespective of religious, cultural and territorial inclinations, to fight back against this wave of terrorism that has engulfed this nation.

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Saifullah Sachwani

Saifullah Sachwani

The author is a practicing lawyer based in Karachi. He tweets as @SaifullahFS (twitter.com/SaifullahFS)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.