Pakistan

Armageddon of Balochistan’s lawyers

By Adnan Ahmed

On 8 August 2016, former president of the Balochistan Bar Association, Bilal Anwar Kasi was fatally shot by a gunman on Quetta Mano Jan Road in, early morning on his way to the court. The news of the attack drew widespread attention of lawyers’ fraternity who wasted no time and gathered at Sandeman Civil Hospital to inquire about the health of their revered lawyer but then a suicide bomber blew himself at the crowded hospital killing 70 lives, including of 54 lawyers. Among the dead, the most experienced and celebrated lawyers of the province also breathed their last.

Bilal Anwar Kasi was an experienced lawyer with 20 years of field experience. He was serving as president of the Balochistan Bar Association. Among others, prominent lawyers were Baz Mohammad Kakar, a human rights activist and former president of the Balochistan Bar Association, Qahir Shah who also served as a legal adviser to the Quetta Municipal Corporation, Qazi Bashir secretary at the lawyer’s wing of the National Party, Bashir Ahmed Zehri who fought a legal battle for the voiceless clients without charging any fees. Chakra Rind had 11 years of experience in the judiciary; he was also an active political worker.

Image: Lawyers protest

Malik Wazeer Kasi was an experienced lawyer and was active in the judiciary movement. Mohammed Saleem Butt embraced martyrdom who had 29 years of experience. Lawyer Dawood Kasi, son of Dr. Malik Kasi, was also among those killed too. Ghani Mashwani also embraced martyrdom; he was patronized by the renowned lawyer Mohamamd Aslam Chisti. Ashraf Sulehri, a lawyer, a TV stage actor, and Quetta’s respected showbiz personality with 16 years into practice died in the blast too.

Immediately after the attack, two groups claimed responsibility. Initially, ISIS claimed the gruesome attack afterward Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of Pakistani militant group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, also claimed ‘credit’ for the attack.

Lawyers across the country mourned the loss of their colleagues. The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) observed weeklong mourning. Many lawyers’ assemblages turned into rallies across Pakistan. Schools, markets, and businesses across the Quetta remained closed as the Balochistan government announced three days of mourning. The president of PSCBA denounced the assault as an attack on justice. Many organizations, like the International Bar Associationthe Law Society of England and Wales, and the International Commission of Jurists condemned the attack. The then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the United States White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, French President François Hollande, and many others also condemned the attack .

Atlas of Balochistan, Pakistan - Wikimedia Commons

However, the tragic incident of 8 August 2016, was not the first incident when the lawyers were targeted in the province as lawyers had been targeted several times in Balochistan. Even right before the incident of 8 august 2016, a lawyer, Jahanzeb Alvi, was shot dead by unknown armed men in the Brewery Road, Quetta on Aug 3, 2016. The principal of the University of Balochistan’s law college, Barrister Amanullah Achakzai, was also shot dead by unknown assailants on Spini Road in June same year. But the blood-drenched incident of 8 August 2016 was a never-seen-before catastrophic event that vanished the whole cadre of the experienced and talented most lawyers of Balochistan at once.

The loss of so many lawyers was catastrophic for the society, institution of bar and bench in the province. Because after the death of an entire lot of senior lawyers, the legal profession is severely affected in Balochistan. The potent burden of cases on the surviving senior lawyers and the eventual ramification further reduced the pace of the judicial system in the province.

Another unforeseen ramification is that the death of 56 lawyers, most of them seniors, has made the learning process very slow for newcomers in the field; as there are not enough senior lawyers from whom they can learn the legal practice. Most senior lawyers who lost their lives in the blast had 8 to 10 trainee lawyers working under them who are now facing trouble finding new mentors. Today, Quetta without it bright and brilliant lawyers feel like an orphaned city; as the presence of an enlightened, progressive and politically active legal fraternity was strong evidence of a vibrant environment in Balochistan.

However, apart from the impact of the tragic incident on the physical, psychological and social well-being of the deceased’s families, colleagues, and close friends; the incident significantly affected the physical and psychological well-being, mental health, and social functioning of the society as a whole following the bereavement of the crème-de-la-crème intellectual cadre of lawyers of Baluchistan.

The lawyers’ commitment to social connectedness with society played an important role in bereavement outcomes. Since deaths and eventual grief is a universal phenomenon; and as part of the grieving process, people adjust and adapt to their loss, but the level of adaptation, and the corresponding emotional, behavioral, psychological, and physical responses differ depending on the bereaved personality traits, religiosity, profession, resilience, and the relationship they have with their social circle and society as a whole.

The Lawyers of Balochistan with their unprecedented social role for the public in a crime-prone society had made their connectedness with the masses so strong that their presence will be felt for decades ahead, and the intellectual gap would require years to be filled in the judiciary of Balochistan.

Historically, whenever any specialized cadre or group of professionals decimated at once; it took decades or even centuries to revive the lost glory in the respective domain. For instance, when Mongols destroyed Baghdad, its gigantic libraries, and all the intellectual resources on a grand scale, the entire Muslim Civilization of that time severely affected the loss; so much so that for centuries the Muslims hegemony on science, literature, and scientific researches vanished and till today the Muslims are unable to gain the lost glorious dignity of the past.

The savants and renowned scholars of the world have been quenching their thirst for knowledge through the intellectual sharing of their scholars. For instance, Socrates taught Plato; Plato taught Aristotle, and then Aristotle taught Alexander the Great; who eventually conquered the world. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, while refereeing to the gatherings, rendezvous, and conversations with intellectually sound people, once remarked: “A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.”

And, this is how Iqbal puts it: translation: (For a thousand years the narcissus has been lamenting its blindness, With great difficulty, the one with true vision is born in the garden)

Mourners sit in front of photos of their loved ones who lost their lives in the August 8, 2016 bombing in Quetta | Reuters

Similarly, when sports professional teams accidentally died at once; it took decades to regain the lost glory in the respective domain. For instance, on May 4, 1949, a Fiat airplane carrying 22 members of Torino, the soccer club that carries the name of the city, slammed into a mountain peak outside Turin, Italy, and killed all of the team of professional sportsmen which was regarded as one of the best of its era. The crash till today is considered one of the worst tragedies in the history of Italian sports, and the psychological effects on Italian soccer were felt so strongly that a book detailing the crash was written The Day Italian Football Died.”

Further, in 1961, 18-member team of United States Figure Skating was on its way to the World Figure Skating Championships in Prague when the Sabena plane plunged into a field in Belgium. The entire team died; the crash deprived the American team of its most glittering talent, and it took years for it to recover and reach the pinnacle of glory again.

The irreparable loss is yet to be filled and it may take several years or decades to regain the intellectual resource of Balochistan in judiciary as there is no shortcut and no substitute of intellectual knowledge and experience that the deceased lawyers gained and could transfer after several years of hard work, fortitude, patience and exertions.

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