Friday June 14, 2024

Quetta bleeds again

By Adnan Aamir
August 11, 2016

On the first day of the week, the lawyers of Quetta left their homes early in the morning in a hurry. They not only had to reach the courts but also participate in the election campaign of the upcoming bar elections. They did not know that almost all of them would not return home that evening.

First, Bilal Anwar Kasi, the president of the Balochistan Bar Association, was gunned down in broad daylight. When lawyers gathered to collect his dead body from the Sandeman Provincial Hospital a powerful suicide blast wiped out the cream of Quetta’s lawyer’s fraternity. According to official sources, 73 people have died so far as a result of the blast while non-official sources put the death toll to well over 100. The suicide attack, which took out the entire leadership of lawyers in Quetta, was claimed by an Isis-affiliated splinter group of the TTP.

The first thing to consider in the aftermath of the bomb blast is that it was indeed a security failure and that the provincial government and law-enforcement agencies are responsible for that. The perpetrators of the attack used a very evil tactic – to first target a lawyer and then attack when people gathered over his dead body.

This is not the first time something like this has happened in Quetta. In fact, it is the fourth such incident. In the past, similar tactics have been used in the Bolan Medical Complex (BMC) attack, the Police Lines blast and also in the same Sandeman Provincial Hospital.

This time around the provincial government failed to pre-empt any such attack despite past precedents. There was no effective security arrangement at the entry of the hospital; this was the main reason for the high death toll. So, without any doubt it was a massive security failure and the provincial government can’t be absolved from responsibility.

The second point to discuss is the lack of life-saving health services in the city in case of such attacks. The victims of the blast were transported to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Quetta Cantonment. CMH also has limited capacity and cannot accommodate victims in case of powerful blasts like the one on Monday.

According to claims by relatives of the bomb blast victims, some of the people lost their lives because they were not provided timely emergency aid after the blast.

All of this could have been avoided if there was a functional trauma centre in the heart of Quetta city. Surprisingly, there is a fully constructed trauma centre inside the Sandeman Provincial Hospital where the attack took place. This trauma centre is well-equipped but not functional even after having been completed. It is alleged that the trauma centre has fallen victim to political disagreements. If true, this is really tragic and criminal. Petty self-interests and egos are preventing life-saving treatment from being provided to the victims of such bomb blasts.

Third, this blast has once again generated debate over who is responsible for it. The chief minister of Balochistan was quick to blame RAW for the blast. Different people came up with different theories. Some blamed sectarian elements who are again gaining a foothold in Quetta, while others termed it as an act to sabotage the $46 billion CPEC project. However, notwithstanding the dubious claim made by a splinter group of the TTP, the people of Quetta will most certainly never know who was behind this attack. There is also no real hope that the perpetrators of this attack will ever be brought to justice.

Likewise, never in the history of Quetta has anyone been held responsible for such attacks. Those who are responsible for protecting the people of Quetta should also be held accountable if they fail to do their job. This is the basic principle of a functional democracy with a proper governance structure.

The day after the attack, Quetta seemed to be a deserted city except for crowds outside homes of the slain lawyers where people were coming to offer condolences. What is worse is that this is not the first time something like this has happened – and God-forbid it is least likely that it will be the last time.

The writer is the editor of Balochistan Voices. Email: Twitter: @iAdnanAamir