‘None is left’: Pakistani legal community decimated by bombing

Lawyers killed in terrorist trap (Credit: Baloch voices)
Lawyers killed in terrorist trap
(Credit: Baloch voices)

QUETTA, Pakistan: Pakistani lawyer Ataullah Lango had just arrived at the Civil Hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta to mourn the slain head of his provincial bar association when he heard a loud explosion and felt the pain of glass stabbing his face.

He lost some 60 colleagues in the suicide bombing that decimated the leadership of this tight-knit legal fraternity, probably for years.

“The cream of our legal fraternity has been martyred,” Lango told Reuters at the house of the slain bar president.

“Our senior leaders … are now gone.”

Pakistan has endured a wave of militant attacks in recent years, but lawyers have not been singled out on such a scale before.

That changed on Monday when a suicide bomber struck a crowd of lawyers who had crammed into a hospital emergency department to accompany the body of Bilal Anwar Kasi, president of the 3,000-member Baluchistan Bar Association.

At least 74 people were killed, most of them lawyers, in Pakistan’s worst bombing this year, claimed by both a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, and the Middle East-based Islamic State.

Across Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province surrounded by mountains, lawyers gathered for funeral prayers on Wednesday, visited families of lost friends, shouted slogans at protests and urged the government to protect them better.

Baluchistan is no stranger to violence, with separatist fighters launching regular attacks on security forces for nearly a decade and the military striking back.

Islamist militants, particularly sectarian groups, have also launched a campaign of suicide bombings and assassinations of minority Shi’ites.

After Monday’s attack, the legal community in Baluchistan and across the country said it felt leaderless but also vowed unity.

Kasi’s younger brother, Shoaib Kasi, himself an attorney, said the attacker had “pre-planned” to first kill the bar association president and then target the hospital, knowing that mourners would gather there.

“It will take centuries for us to make up this loss,” lawyer Abdul Aziz Lehri told Reuters at the district court building, largely deserted due to a strike by his colleagues.

The president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Ali Zafar, called the attack a “turning point”, and gave the government until Thursday to present a security plan to protect lawyers and other “soft targets”.


Emotions ran high at a press conference where lawyers expressed anger, particularly against the country’s powerful military, but also voiced defiance.

“We are not tense because of the terrorists,” said senior lawyer Manzoor ul Hassan. “We have sadness, of course, but no fear.”

Lawyers have held a special place in Pakistan’s democratic process.

A lawyers’ movement emerged as the vanguard of a campaign against the then army chief Pervez Musharraf after he suspended the country’s top judge in 2007 for opposing plans to extend the general’s term in office.

Lawyers organized convoys traveling from city to city to support ousted chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, and the government was forced to re-instate him.

Musharraf emerged from the confrontation a much diminished figured and stepped down as president in 2008.

“Lawyers were the targets, because we fight for the rights of the people,” Ali Zafar told the press conference. “They think we will be weakened … I say we will become stronger.”

Prominent lawyer Ali Ahmed Kurd said those left would carry the torch.

“The juniors who are left, they are filled with the passion for working hard, for honesty … that will make up the difference,” Kurd told Reuters in Quetta.

But he added that the lawyers of Baluchistan were afraid to call a meeting of the bar association to map out the legal fraternity’s next steps.

“If you convene a meeting now, who will come?” Kurd said. “There’s no one. None is left.”

(Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

53 killed in blast at Quetta’s civil hospital after lawyer’s killing

Quetta blastQUETTA / ISLAMABAD: At least 53 people killed and over 50 others were injured when a bomb exploded in Civil Hospital Quetta on Monday.

The blast, followed by firing was heard after president of Balochistan Bar Association Advocate Bilal Anwar Kasi was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Quetta.

Facebook activates ‘safety check’ feature following Quetta blast

Television footage from the site showed scenes of chaos, with panicked mourners fleeing through debris as smoke filled the corridors of the hospital’s emergency ward.

A heavy contingent of Frontier Corps and police arrived and cordoned off the hospital following the blast, restricting access to the area. According to police and rescue officials,

Kasi was targeted by two unidentified gunmen who opened fire on his car near Quetta’s Mengal Chowk on Mannu Jan road. The bar association president was shifted to Civil Hospital, where he succumbed to injuries.

The subsequent suicide attack appeared to target his mourners, Anwar ul Haq Kakar, a spokesperson for the Balochistan government, said. “It seems it was a pre-planned attack,” he said.

More than 50 mourners, including lawyers and journalists were entering the emergency department of the hospital, accompanying Kasi’s body, when the bomb went off, Faridullah, a journalist who was at the scene, told Reuters.

College principal gunned down in Quetta

Several lawyers were reported injured in the explosion and aerial firing could still be heard near the hospital’s emergency’s ward. Meanwhile, former Balochistan Bar Association president Advocate Baz Muhammad Kakar succumbed to injuries.

According to reports, Aaj TV journalist Shehzad Ahmed was also killed in the blast, while Dawn News cameraman was critically injured. Following the incident, emergency has been declared in hospitals across Quetta.

Targeted killings have become increasingly common in Quetta, the capital of a province that has seen rising violence linked to a separatist insurgency as well as sectarian tensions and rising crime. Quetta has also long been a stronghold of the Afghan Taliban. The motive behind Monday’s attacks, however, was unclear.

Army chief General Raheel Sharif arrived in Quetta and visited civil hospital where he inquired about the health of the injured, and was briefed about the deadly incident. Meanwhile, PM Nawaz is scheduled to arrive in Quetta shortly.

President Mamnoon, PM Nawaz strongly condemn Quetta blast

President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the blast, Radio Pakistan reported.

KU professor shot dead in Karachi’s FB area

Deploring the loss of precious lives in the incident, PM Nawaz directed concerned authorities to maintain utmost vigilance and beef up security for the legal fraternity and members of civil society.

The premier said, “No one will be allowed to disturb peace in the province that has been restored due to countless sacrifices of security forces, police and the people of Balochistan.”

President Mamoon and PM Nawaz directed for provision of best treatment to those injured in the attack. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has also condemned the blast.

RAW behind Quetta attack, claims Balochistan CM

Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri has claimed that Monday’s attack was carried out by RAW, the Indian premier spy agency.

“I have the evidence of RAW’s involvement in Quetta’s attack which I will share with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the foreign ministry,” Zehri said while speaking with the Express News.

The chief minister said he has, at times, provided evidences of Indian involvement in stoking unrest in the province. Besides ordering an inquiry the chief minister also announced three-day mourning in wake of the Quetta blast.

Commander southern command inquires after injured

Commander Southern Command Lt-Gen Amir Riaz visited the civil hospital and inquired after the injured. He also directed the authorities concerned to provide best medical facilities to those injured in the blast.

PBC calls for nationwide strike, one week of mourning

Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Monday called for a nationwide strike on August 9 and one week of mourning after the attack which left over people, including president of Balochistan Bar Association, dead.

PBC’s vice-chairman Dr Muhammad Farogh Naseem and chairman executive committee Abdul Fayaz strongly condemned the assassination of Kasi and the blast in Civil Hospital. They appealed the lawyers to observe a country-wide strike tomorrow i.e. Tuesday August 9 and one week of morning.

“The lawyers, while observing the strike and mourning, will hold protest meetings in their bar rooms and wear black bands to condemn the tragic incident,” a statement said.

CJP condemns Quetta attack

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali has strongly condemned Kasi’s assassination and the bomb blast at Civil Hospital that claimed lives of innocent lawyers and other citizens besides causing injuries to many people, a statement said.

The CJP offered his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and prayed for speedy recovery to the injured. He further hoped that the federal and provincial governments would leave no stone unturned to provide justice to the affected families.

Nafisa Hoodbhoy’s book launched in Quetta also


QUETTA: The 2016 Expanded Edition of “Aboard the Democracy Train, Pakistan Tracks the Threat Within” was launched on July 21 at Quetta Press Club Quetta.

Speakers at the book launching ceremony said it was preplanned to distort the essence of democracy in the country, which is why the people showed aversion to democracy and politics.

Through infiltration in ethnic, religious and political groups ‘ideological politics’ in Pakistan was distorted, as result of it democracy failed to develop in the country, they said.

Nafisa Hoodbhoy said that in the present expanded addition she included the latest events especially related to terrorism, including Peshawar Army Public School carnage and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

She said: “If CPEC proves a game changer, it will help prosper the Baloch youth economically by getting jobs. If the Baloch people were deemed security issues and their reservations not resolved, it will further worsen the situation.”

Veteran Journalist Siddiq Baloch said the people have been befooled in the name of CPEC, which, according to him, was being used as a propaganda tool.

Former  Balochistan Chief Secretary Hakim Baloch said that with the help of Muslims’ votes Pakistan was democratically created. Despite it, the people’s representation was not respected following the creation of Pakistan. As a result, he said, politics, politicians and democracy all have become victims of terrorism.

Mr. Hakim Baloch further added, “After the 1946’s and 1971’s fair, free, and transparent elections, the confused policy makers of the country decided not to conduct free elections anymore, and this practice is continued to this day. Resultantly, Pakistan has failed to develop a stable democracy. Also, due to manipulation of elections and intervention in the political process, political parties had to face disintegration in the country.”

Former Finance Secretary Mahfooz Ali Khan said the people of Gwadar are deprived of their basic amenities, especially water. With the CPEC, the government should also resolve the issues of the people of Gwadar.

“Following the attack on the Army Public School, restrictions on the Press have also increased, as well journalists have to self-censor while filing stories.”

“Although CPEC is being introduced as a game change, it is in reality not so. Instead, it is only being highlighted to divert the people’s attention from the sinking economy,” said Siddiq Baluch.

He also regretted that out of 1600 only 400 megawatt electricity is being given to the people of Balochistan, which is injustice with the people of Balochistan. Besides it, he said, gas was discovered in Balochistan in 1952, and to this day 29 districts of Balochistan are still deprived of it.

Munir Badini, a prolific Baloch author and former Secretary of Education Department said: “Intolerance and extremism are on the rise in the country, which has brought havoc to the country.”

“Balochistan makes half of Pakistan, and if Balochistan remains backward is meant that half of Pakistan is backward,” said Siddiq Baloch.

Lauding the author, Mr. Badini said the author has wonderfully and meticulously brought to fore the issues of all provinces of Pakistan in her book, and for the first time in Balochistan an author has come out of the province to launch the book here.

Aboard the Democracy Train: Book Launched in Quetta


Quetta, July 22: “Aboard the Democracy Train” book authored by Nafisa Hoodbhoy was launched in a ceremony held in Quetta Press Club, on Thursday.

The book is about the journey of democracy in Pakistan and senior Journalist Nafisa Hoodbhoy has noted down her experiences while travelling in train with political leaders such as Late Benazir Bhutto at different points in time.

Nafisa Hoodbhoy, addressing the ceremony, said that people should be provided a chance to participate in maintaining a true democracy. “Politicians need to show the reality and truth to the masses about democracy,” she said.

People should be provided a chance to participate in maintaining a true democracy – Nafisa Hoodbhoy

She urged media to differentiate between right and wrong for a good and long term sustainable democracy.

Shahzada Zulfiqar, President of Quetta Press Club, said that Journey and exposure are very important for a journalist to point out the reality during professional reporting.

Mr. Zulfiqar further added that Media plays an important role in different fields of life and this book is a great contribution in providing information which can be used by the researchers.

Mr. Munir Ahmed Badini, Former Secretary Education and Balochi and Brahvi literary figure, said that the Book needs to be read attentively and deeply to understand the pulse of it.

Mr. Badini lamented that some people are imposing their views using violence and use of force which is not a good idea and needs to be condemned.

Baloch are people of this country and considering them just a security issue will be very dangerous – Siddique Baloch

Siddique Baloch, Senior Journalist said that Nafisa is one of the senior journalists and she has defined very well the culture and deprivation of people of Balochistan.

He further added “Baloch are people of this country and considering them just a security issue will be very dangerous.”

Hakeem Baloch, former Chief Secretary Balochistan, said that ethnic diversity of Karachi and Sindh culture is very well defined by the author of Book.

People from different sections in society attended the launching ceremony in large numbers.

Speakers call for alternative narrative to establish tolerant society

20_07_2016_182_005PESHAWAR, July 19: Speakers at a book launching ceremony here on Tuesday said that the state narrative in the country only promoted extremism and intolerance in the society.

There was dire need of an alternate narrative by the civil society and political forces to establish a tolerant and peaceful society where people of different faiths could enjoy equal rights, they said.

The 2016 expanded edition of “Aboard the Democracy Train: Pakistan Tracks the Threat Within” by Nafisa Hoodbhoy was lunched at University of Peshawar under the auspices of Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

The author, a senior journalist, said that as the only woman reporter in Pakistan’s leading Dawn newspaper from 1984 till 2000, she was curious about the connection between day to day events and stored them in memory to tell the world some day about the larger picture.

She said that initially the book was published with a sub-title “A journey through Pakistan’s last decade of democracy” and it was a frontline account of the country’s decade of turbulent democracy from 1988 till 1999.

Ms Hoodbhoy said that in the present expanded addition she had included the latest events especially related to terrorism including Peshawar Army Public School carnage and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Lauding the author’s approach, senior advocate and former MNA Abdul Lateef Afridi said that she had attempted to approach Pakistan’s history with a fresh view instead of the existing state narrative taught since decades in educational institutions in the shape of Pakistan Studies.

“Unfortunately Pakistan had no history before 1947 and the history was that of the nationalities living here including Punjabis, Pashtuns, Bengalis, etc.

However, a narrative was developed by the state trying to compel these nationalities to stop talking about their culture and history and they should consider that their history only started with the creation of Pakistan,” he said.

Mr Afridi said that the state narrative was based on religious lines which taught people that the members of other faiths were their enemies.

He said that ANP was the only party having a clear stand against militants as hundreds of its leaders and workers were killed, but still the establishment and a mindset developed by it was not willing to award certificate of patriotism to them.

He said that organisations like Jumat ud Dawah were openly holding public meetings and declaring those people, who did not share their ideology, as traitors. It showed that the state was still not willing to change its narrative, he added.

Shahana Ajoon, the mother of a killed student of APS, said that all the mothers of the killed students had raised several pertinent questions but so far they had not been given answers by the government regarding the incident.

She asked as to why hundreds of students were gathered at the main auditorium of the school when there was a specific threat to the institution.

Provincial chief of National Party Mukhtar Bacha raised the question whether existing social contract, which had bound the people, had resolved the issues in the country.

He said that soon after creation of Pakistan the Objective Resolution was passed and subsequently it was made part of the Constitution thus dividing the country on religious lines.

Mr Bacha said that they needed to start discussion for a new social contract, which should be based on scientific and sociological norms rather than intolerance and hate.

He added that the issues of class difference, democracy and sectarianism should be addressed in the new contract.

“We need a counter narrative to that of the state and the author had tried to provide that narrative in her book,” he said.

Strengthening Participatory Organisations chief executive Naseer Memon said that there were several problems plaguing the country.

He said that they were not ready to accept identities of different nationalities. He said state was dealing only with symptoms of terrorism instead of its causes, which were inherent in the state narrative.

Pakhtunkhwa Olasi Tehreek leader Dr Said Alam Mehsud said that not a single political party had demanded independent judicial inquiry into APS carnage as they were stopped by the security forces from doing do.

He added that on June 15 a standing committee of Senate demanded that CPEC should be under Council of Common Interests instead of Planning Commission, but media did not give coverage to it as they were stopped by certain quarters from doing so.

Women rights activist Rukhshanda Naz, who also moderated the programme, and head of Khawendo Kor Maryam Bibi said that the author had not ignored gender perspective while writing the book and had also included in it the miseries of women during militancy.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2016

First Launch of 2016 Edition in Peshawar University on July 19

Peshawar University
Peshawar University
The 2016 Expanded Edition of `Aboard the Democracy Train, Pakistan Tracks the Threat Within’ will be launched on July 19 in Peshawar University under the auspices of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

Peshawar has been selected as the venue for the launch of the book because of the city’s front line role in the Afghan war. In this current edition, the book addresses how the horrific attack on Army Public School, Peshawar brought into sharp focus the long standing relationship of Pakistan’s army with the Taliban.

The event will be held at Teachers Community Center, University of Peshawar between 3-5 pm.

For more information contact Literary Secretary, Noor Sanauddin

Next, the Expanded `Train’ Travels to Quetta

The Road to Gwadar Port
The Road to Gwadar Port

Next, the book’s expanded edition – bearing the sub-title `Pakistan Tracks the Threat Within,’ – will be launched on July 21 in Quetta Press Club. The event will be addressed by political figures, civil servants and the intelligentsia.

Quetta has been selected as the venue for the launch because of the economic opportunities being offered in Balochistan by China, via its investment in Gwadar Port and the economic corridor it is building through Pakistan.

In its updated edition, the book reveals how Balochistan’s notriety in hiding the Afghan Taliban, fighting the Afghan government next door, may be gradually phased out and replaced by training and economic opportunities for the neglected people of the province.

For more information, contact Asian Development Organization chairman, Riaz Raisani at Sarawaan@gmail.com