August 14, 2016
On August 9, every lawyer in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital, was either at a funeral or shuttling around town to offer condolences. The suicide bombing at the Civil Hospital Quetta on August 8 left 73 dead and over 100 injured, most of them lawyers. So devastating was the impact of the attack by Tehrik-e-Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahraar that no member of Balochistan’s legal community was left unaffected. Earlier in the day, Balochistan Bar Association president Bilal Kasi had been gunned down. Kasi’s target killing brought the city’s entire legal fraternity to the civil hospital, setting the scene for an attack that has left the nation’s legal and judicial circles reeling, with many arguing that it will take decades to overcome the damage.
Amanullah Kanrani, former advocate general of Balochistan, was one of the survivors of the Quetta attack. Despite sustaining injuries, he left his hospital bed to join the mourners and begin rebuilding the community. “There are 300 lawyers in Balochistan,” Kanrani said, “and 150 of them were either killed or injured.” These are approximate numbers, but it is widely believed that at least half the lawyers in the province have been affected, including almost the entire cadre of senior practicing lawyers. Syed Ayaz Zahoor, a senior Baloch advocate, said, “It will take 40 years for Balochistan to overcome the damage that has been done”.
Baloch lawyers are the only means of communication between the people of their province and the Pakistani state, which faces allegations of silencing them and often held responsible for their mysterious disappearance. “With so many lawyers missing,” said Kanrani, “the courts cannot function. It will be to the detriment of the judiciary and the litigants of Balochistan.” People who have appealed to the courts will now find it impossible to attain justice. Zahoor summed it up. “You can now count on your fingers the number of advocates left,” he stated. “It will have a great effect on the public…it will have great consequences for our province.”
Quetta’s lawyers are active not only in defending the dispossessed and disappeared, they are among a small intellectual core in the province that has been consistently targeted by militants and the security agencies.