Can we please talk about Quetta?

Published: October 27, 2016

Why must Quetta bury its people again and again and again, while we go on as if nothing has changed?

Can we talk about QuettaThey called Quetta the fruit garden of Pakistan, once. You read about it in your social studies class as the ninth-largest city in Pakistan; it was a capital, and capitals are revered.

But no one ever talked about Quetta outside of textbooks.

Monday night, October 24, 2016, cadets at a police training academy in Quetta awoke to a terrorist attack that killed 61, and injured more than 120. The dead bodies piled up, young men in the prime of their youth, young men that fall in the same age bracket as our brothers and sons, our husbands and fiancés, our friends and loved ones. The dead bodies piled up – and we didn’t pause.

Our lives went on, the way our lives have always gone on as Quetta bleeds. Our newsfeeds didn’t go very black, our conversations didn’t change so much, and our plans weren’t disrupted at all. The dead piled up in Quetta – young men who were training to protect others, their bodies shrouded in multi-coloured blankets, a pair of naked feet poking out from underneath the fabric here, a hint of garment visible there; young men who were training to protect others lying still and cold on the ground outside a hospital, oblivious to the stares of those around them – and our lives went on.

When terrorists struck the APS school in Peshawar, we came together. We came together from Karachi to Delhi, from London to New York, because the suffering of children knows no boundaries. Because killing the young is like a sudden knife tearing open the heart of the world. Now the dead bodies of young adults pile up in Quetta, men the age of our brothers and sons and lovers and friends, and we go on with our lives like nothing has changed. In August, an entire generation of lawyers was killed in Quetta – every single senior practicing lawyer and barrister died in a terrorist attack at a hospital, on August 8, 2016. And we went on with our lives as if it wasn’t our problem, not so much, not really.

Those of us who have buried a loved one know how traumatic it is to lose a life. Why must Quetta bury its people again and again and again, while we go on as if nothing has changed? Why must Balochistan?

In Quetta, the courtrooms lie empty because an entire generation of lawyers is gone. The loss of institutional knowledge and expertise resulting from their absence is so immense, it is almost impossible to wrap one’s head around the breadth and depth of it. Lawyers and law-enforcement agents – in the past few months, it is those that stand up for your rights that have been targeted. Without these people, who protects you? Without these people, where do you stand?

What drives this apathy? What drives our inability to realise the magnitude of these horrors? What drives our continued silence on Quetta? On Balochistan?

Will we never talk about Quetta outside of textbooks? Will we never talk about Balochistan?

Can we talk about Dera Bugti, which houses four major gas fields, but is itself deprived of gas? Can we talk about Sui, whose people are shivering in the cold, despite providing natural gas to the entire country? Can we talk about Alamdar Road, where Hazara families sat in the open air alongside the decaying bodies of their children and siblings, their parents and partners, unable to lower their loved ones into the ground, forced to suffer the brutality of displaying their dead to the world, in the hopes of media coverage of their plight?

Can we talk about Monday night, when 61 young cadets training to be protectors, lost their lives to a terrorist attack?

Can we please talk about Quetta? Can we please talk about Balochistan?

Flag-covered coffins and martyrdom will not stem the flow of blood, will not make up for the loss of assets that have a chance at making us whole again. Only action will, and action stems from advocacy. Action stems from knowing. Most of us don’t know anything about the situation in Balochistan beyond a vague idea of civil unrest and neglect, and it’s time we educate ourselves.

This piece was originally published here.

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

  • Sara Sheik

    I hope now no one can say that Baloch’s didn’t shed their blood for Pakistan. Baloch’s have lost generations, their educated youth and have been the victim of worst kind of terrorism. You are the witness of it and so is the world. Nothing can replace what this soil has lost.Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath

    So what was the point of the article. Pakistan offers no solutions. Like previous attacks Pakistan has blamed RAW, NDS, Mossad and CIA and moved on. Pakistanis don’t want to be reminded that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was sponsored by the state not many years ago and has presence all over Pakistan. Their main target was the Shias, Hazaras and other minorities. Two years ago the state withdrew its support and started killing Lashkar-e-Janghvi leadership. Now that group has turned its guns on the Pakistani state. This is an inevitable turn of events that other groups such as the Pakistani Taliban have gone through. Other groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network etc. still enjoy state support because they still meet state objectives in Afghanistan and India, but if the past is any guide, eventually there will be a falling out and they will also turn against the Pakistani state. Unfortunately all this wisdom is lost on Pakistan and the shrill shouting subsumes any rational discussion and the security services refuse to take responsibility for the consequences of their policies.Recommend

  • Mahad

    Balochistan has been picking up dead bodies for years now. The establishment is doing far more harm than goodRecommend

  • Allah Hafiz

    Baloch should definitely get their fair share…the share wont be given unless you try.Recommend

  • AJ

    I just can’t believe thag the popular news channels are not even discussing about the unfortunate incident. All the coverage is given to the politicians and their non-serious and not-so-important juggalbandis.
    The attitude of the politicians is even more tragic. They arent even discussing the issue and are i dulged in their own problems.

    Why have we become so heartless that we dont even discuss or talk about the tragedy anymore.

    I feel terrible after watching the news channels and politicians spending hours and hours on the coverage irrelevant topics and not giving this incident due attention.


  • cheebz

    people are very well aware of Quetta, Fata, Kashmir, Punjab, Sindh and KPK.. about you talk more about why we dont talk much about critizing government for not doing operation in South Punjab? or asking Baloch govt why they bought these guys in?Recommend

  • vivek

    What to do Mam,as an Indian My heart bleeds with sorrow for PakRecommend

  • A K Marri

    Punjab dont care 1 bit about Baloch. Republic of Baluchistan is the only way out … Recommend

  • Sara Sheik

    keep your thoughts to yourself, you haven’t done any good to Balochs either!Recommend

  • wb

    You’re confused and confusing others. Baloch people did not shed blood for Pakistan. Baloch people shed blood because of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Sara Sheik

    I get your point but people who die in terrorist attacks don’t die because of Pakistan. I am a Pakistani and so are you, we make Pakistan, we are Pakistan. So who killed them ? These attacks are happening in the whole world. Yes, we can blame the governments for not taking necessary measures, we can also blame the security officials but we can’t blame the whole country. We are all at war with the terrorists.Recommend