Was Quetta an ISIS job or a JuA job? Or was it a joint effort?

Published: August 11, 2016

Lawyers use a stretcher to move an injured colleague after a bomb exploded at a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, on Monday. PHOTO: AFP

I found out about the Quetta bombing the way I do about most breaking news – through Facebook. My heart sank as I saw an article a friend had posted about a cameraman who worked for one of the same publications as I do. He was a father of four children and legal guardian to three others. On Tuesday, while filming a protest of lawyers outside a Quetta hospital he was killed in a suicide attack alongside 93 others. The attack – yet another in the violence-plagued south-western province of Balochistan – is said to have taken out an entire generation of Quetta’s lawyers. While I was writing this article, another attack, aimed at a judge’s cavalcade, injured 17 people.   

As tends to happen in the aftermath of a violent attack in Pakistan – or sometimes even while the event is still unfolding – media pundits, armchair commentators and general observers on social media jump the gun and start asking all the wrong type of questions.

“Why hasn’t [insert just about any country/government/politician/world leader name] taken a stand against the perpetrators?”

“If this is not terrorism then what is?” they ask.

Or, my two favourites,

“Why won’t Facebook come out with an [insert flag colour scheme] filter for this specific tragedy?” and “why won’t mainstream media dedicate a day’s worth of coverage on this?”

By now we are all too familiar with the melodramatic lamenting that inevitably follows each crisis of the last decade as people try to cope through memes, articles, tweets and Facebook posts.

Truth be told, in Pakistan, the novelty of terrorist attacks remains. We do not tire of it nor does it tire of us. And so we continue to ask over and over again: How come the media goes to 24/7 coverage and the world lights up its landmarks when terrorists kill in Paris, Brussels, and Orlando but when terrorists kill in Beirut, Baghdad, and Quetta, the news is met with barely a raised eyebrow and rushed, regurgitated condolences offered by world leaders? Is it because the lives of the people of Pakistan matter less than the people of Paris?

A few years ago, Nour Kabbach, a Lebanese humanitarian aid worker, did service to the feeling of having one’s tragedy deemed ‘not good enough’ by world leaders’ and international media. Following the heavy bombardment of her home city in Aleppo, Syria, Kabbach posted to Facebook:

Kabbach’s words get at the heart of a popular, longstanding theory that white faces covered in blood are more newsworthy and attention-worthy than black or brown faces. It certainly is an attractive theory because a cursory Google search or some quick channel surfing pretty much confirms the theory’s viability. But that doesn’t change the fact that continuing to vent our frustrations over the lack of attention is a troubling and, ultimately, futile exercise that only winds up detracting from the sum equation of the tragedy: the lives lost, the livelihoods ended, the families and cities destroyed.

Essentially, our all-too-familiar pattern of theorising, speculating and postulating following a horrible tragedy is useless and serving. It does absolutely nothing to help those who are trying to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones nor does it help the victims still fighting for their lives.

Because we have rote memorised this familiar pattern, we know with measured certainty that in the upcoming days, possibly even weeks, the hash tags and solidarity posts will light up the darkened cyber pathways. But while our ‘thoughts and prayers’ will slowly flicker and burn out and we will all return to carrying on in a business-as-usual fashion, for Quetta the dust will have barely settled.

And the state of Pakistan and its hodgepodge of politicians and self-proclaimed experts will continue to confuse us in the aftermath of Quetta’s chaos.

So, while I understand, and to some extent, share the desire for global solidarity, the current dialogue is tired of detracting from the greater crisis looming large on the horizon of Pakistan.

We should not be asking why a newsroom, a couple hundred thousand miles away, is not covering our story. We should be asking why – despite an entire generation of defenders of the law being wiped out – the people we have voted in and entrusted with positions of power and authority continue to grandstand with their heads stuck in a place where the sun doesn’t shine.

Quetta, an already lawless wasteland, was turned into a literal definition of lawlessness in a matter of seconds. Forget changing your profile picture to a white candle flickering against a blackened background. It’s about ten years past the time to put out a call for a radical reconfiguration of Pakistan’s entire political and social structure.

How is that in the wake of such atrocity we have Islamists like Hafiz Saeed (who has a $10 million US bounty on his head) getting significant media coverage for propagating chaos in the form of statements pinning the attacks on India.

Even Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri has hinted at Indian involvement.

Never mind that shortly after the attack ISIS’ Amaq news agency took responsibility for the attacks as did Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan splinter group Jamaatul Ahrar.

While our leaders continue to confuse the easily confused masses, sending an already distraught nation on a goose chase towards the eastern border of Pakistan, the real issue that terrifies me to my bone marrow is how the state of Pakistan, despite having claimed success in its Operation Zarb-e-Azb, is still unaware when it comes to knowing who is who in the zoo of terrorist groups operating inside and around Pakistan.

Was Quetta an ISIS job or a JuA job? Or was it a joint effort?

I’m not a national security expert but I know that co-operations and allegiances are not uncommon between Islamist terrorist entities. For this reason, it is possible that the conflicting claims for responsibility actually indicate the existence of a formal alliance between the two terrorist organisations. Or maybe it’s not. Either way, I find it hard to care if some media outlet across the world is investing talk time towards my country when the people running my country aren’t even sure what’s going on in their own backyard.

Friend and fellow journalist Abdul Basit summed it up best on Facebook:

“The Quetta attack is a wake-up call and it asks for revisiting our entire approach to internal security and (to understanding) the linkages between the internal security with the regional and global geopolitics…Pakistan’s redundant approach to internal security rooted in the Cold War mind-set is not helping its cause. The world is changing rapidly and our political and military leadership need to show more flexibility in their decision-making, our diplomatic corpses have to be more imaginative and the civil society along with the intelligentsia and academia need to come up with local answers which can be used as antidote to violent extremism. This is a generational struggle.”

And so to Pakistanis I say, quit worrying about the international community’s response (or lack thereof). We have bigger, more urgent problems dealing with the convoluted and complex mess brewed up by our own people inside our own borders. And to Pakistan, I say this: you literally had one job.

Maria Kari

Maria Kari

The author is a lawyer and freelance journalist. She tweets as @mariakari1414 (twitter.com/mariakari1414)

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

  • Patwari

    Nawaz bin Salman bin Abdelaziz bin Sharif is not a leader.
    He always wanted to “negotiate” with terrorists. Still does.
    So GOODLUCK to Sheepland, Also known as Land of the Pure.Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    It doesn’t matter who USA labels as a terrorist.

    Hafiz Saeed is not a terrorist. Unless you call killing Hindu soldiers in Kashmir, terrorism. Which it isn’t.Recommend

  • Kushal

    And then you ask why the world doesn’t pay attention to your complaints.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Pakistan has become like a buffet line of terrorists, you can take your pickRecommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Hmmmm, Let’s see, wasn’t Hafiz Saeed the leader of LeT, which was responsible for the Mumbai 26/11 terrorist attack?????Recommend

  • Rohan

    Unfortunate that it happened to balochis , would have preferred the blast to be in Punjab Recommend

  • jay

    They should lock you up , you a threatRecommend

  • jay

    Land of the pure is filled with blood of the pure !Recommend

  • raj

    its Pakistan as a whole country.. do not demarcate it with different castes as u do it in IndiaRecommend

  • raj

    Nobody cares .. how many blasts are happening each day there and you think Pakistan has become buffet.. open your eyes..Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    I live in Islamabad.

    Come get me.Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    No he wasn’t.

    That’s what the Indian government said.

    Who cares what the Indian Government says.

    Hafiz Saeed did not have a hand in the Mumbai attacks.Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    I never asked that.

    I know the answer to that.

    The question is: Why didn’t the world pay attention to a person who is responsible for killing 2000 ‘human beings’ in the state of Gujarat, becoming the Prime Minister of a secular state?Recommend

  • Brig subedar khan

    please carry on.Recommend

  • sterry

    The real root cause of the instability is still India which illegally occupies held Kashmir and planned this to deflect attention. With all the coverage of the killings of Kashmiri civilians, the Indians returned to what they have been doing in Pakistan for over 60 years. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel knew that India uses Afghanistan as a base to mount cowardly attacks on Pakistani civilians and made this admission openly. The news of Indian agents being apprehended in Karachi or in Baluchistan after crossing in from Afghanistan surprised no one. Whether this or that group claims responsibility means nothing because the funding and manipulation behind the scenes is from India and its Afghan lackey. The Afghans haven’t learned that doing India’s dirty work for 60 years has only destroyed lives for Afghans who are begging as refugees all over the world. India hasn’t fooled anyone into understanding their real motive which is why Pakistanis have not stopped talking about occupied Kashmir. The national mood is one of solidarity and making sure that CPEC is not derailed which is what Indians are trying to do. These cowardly acts will continue as they do in Europe and elsewhere but the whole nation has seen a drop and with more vigilance there will be even more of a drop is such horrible crimes.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Balochis are not a caste but a community plus they’ve suffered more than punjabis that’s why I sympathise with themRecommend

  • Abdullah

    either the author has sympathy with India or she watches too many bollywood movies. What about the Raw agent who got arrested? Balochistan is not a lawless land there is provincial government that is in control get your facts right!!! Recommend

  • siesmann

    You/Pakistan deserve Saeed Hafiiz and all his and his fellows terror network.Terrorist will be terrorist whether USA labels him or not.It is your attitude ISIS is not far off from taking over Pakistan.Recommend

  • siesmann

    The bottom line is that behind all of Pakistan’s/Islamic world’s woes is Mullah,and people keep on giving them more space ever.Their tentacles are now deep into the societies ,and it won’t be easy to shut them up into mosques and their activities monitored by common man along with Government.It won’t be easy because one can change Governments with vote;not Mullahs-they have all the tricks to keep them in the driver’s seat.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    it was an inside jobRecommend

  • Grace

    Statistically, terrorist acts are down drastically the last few years but Pakistan has a long border with Afghanistan where it is hard to stop Indian agents and Afghan refugees who enter illegally. Unless the border is tightened, such acts will continue but overall it is down everywhere thanks to the army.This is all an Indian ploy to keep Pak busy.Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    Modi is a terrorist whethere USA labels him or not.

    “ISIS is not far off from taking over Pakistan”

    Hindus were the ones that were always taken over by Muslims. Your mentality doesn’t go beyond the words “taken over”.

    You should thank God that we Muslims of the subcontinent decided to break free from the British.

    Otherwise you would’ve had been enslaved still just like the past 1000 years.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Whole world knows(and you people too)that Mullah Hafiz saeed id a terrorist,and was complicit in 26/11Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Too bad for you that all can go to Wikipedia and search for LeT and Hafiz Saeed, to see that he is still considered the leader of that India specific terrorist organization that is credited with the Mumbai terrorist attack! Also information from the arrest and conviction of Pakistani-American “David Headley, along with information from captured terrorist AJmal Kasab highlighted LeT’s role in the attack!Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    Too bad you use Wikipedia for your information.

    What David Headley and Ajmal Kaasab said is “your” narrative. An Indian narrative.

    I don’t trust you enough to agree with what you say they said.

    Fighting in Kashmir is not terrorism.Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    No he is not a terrorist.

    So your first sentence has been proven wrong.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Its amusing that Pakistanis keep trying to quote Chuck Hagel without even knowing what he said. For one He wasn’t defense Secretary when he made the speech. Second he said “India’s involvement in Afghanistan is causing difficulties to Pakistan”. But then going by the historic lack comprehension skills of Pakistanis i dont hold your confusion against you. Difficulties probably meant difficulties for Pakistani proxies like the Haqqani network. Only people like you are fooled by your politicians into thinking India illegally occupies kashmir. Ever wondered why the UN dropped kashmir from the list of disputed areas in 2010. The world does not care what your national mood is. The world is only concerned about two things. The terrorists groomed by your establishment and the prospect of your nuclear weapons falling into their handsRecommend

  • Gratgy

    Each time there is a blast there are more than a couple of groups making claims. Pakistan has indeed become a terrorists buffet, open your own eyesRecommend

  • Gratgy

    Talking about being busy, Pakistan doesn’t export much, doesn’t produce much, imports almost everything, survives on charity, you guys must be having so much free time, oh I get it, burning US/India/Israel flag, joining terrorist camps, sneaking into Europe for terror activities.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    You people never broke free from anything, You were those who were converted by invading armies from Central Asia. No ruler in the present Pakistan ever stood up to invaders, Cowardice has always been a historic pastime for the present Pakistan. The only time Punjabis ruled Pathans historically, was when they were ruled by Sikhs. Muslims never rebelled against British either, Jinnah was a Anglophile. You were forced to leave the enslavement of the British and then you lunged into the enslavement of USA and Saudi Arabia and now china. The slave mentality will never leave youRecommend

  • Gratgy

    No one lives in Islamabad, you only existRecommend

  • numbersnumbers

    So he is not leader of terrorist group LeT??????Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    So you obviously didn’t bother to go to Wikipedia and look up LeT and Hafiz Saeed????Recommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    You see here is what you people are wrong.

    We never converted to anything.

    We were the ones that came from Arabia to Sindh to spread Islam.

  • Gratgy

    Oh really? You make me laughRecommend

  • Gratgy

    Neither suicide bombing in PakistanRecommend

  • AA_Southpaw

    If it helps you sleep at night.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Get a DNA test done.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Simple, because the world doesn’t live in your parallel universe where repeating absurdities makes it true. As per your logic, Raheel Sharif is responsible for the mass child rape in KasurRecommend

  • pork lover

    It doesn’t matter who Pakistan labels as a terrorist. By the same logic Mullah Fazilullah of TTP is not a terrorist. Unless you call killing Sun_ni Punjabi soldiers in Balochistan and Karachi, which it isn’t?
    And Pakistan has plenty of its so-called terrorists who can be considered India’s friends! See the irony in your comment:)Recommend