As soon as lawyers arrived with the body of Bilal Kasi, a lawyer at Civil Hospital Quetta on Monday morning, an explosion took place, killing 53 people and injuring many more. Most of the victims are lawyers and journalists. It is not clear whether the two incidents are related. Reacting to the blast, Chief Minister of Balochistan Sanaullah Zehri said it was a suicide attack and blamed India’s external spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for carrying out the attack.
This is not the first time lawyers in Balochistan have been targeted. A lawyer, Jahanzeb Alvi, was shot dead by unknown armed men in the Brewery Road area of Quetta last week, on August 3. The principal of University of Balochistan’s law college, Barrister Amanullah Achakzai, was also shot dead by unknown gunmen on Spini Road in Quetta in June this year.
But this is the first time that lawyers have been targeted at such a large scale in Balochistan. Blasts and suicide attacks have, however, taken place in hospitals and health centres of Quetta earlier.
Though no groups have so far claimed responsibility, Bilal Kasi’s death on Mannu Jan Road in Quetta appears to be a case of targeted killing. He was the president of the Balochistan Bar Association.
Over the last decade the province has seen a high level of violence, which includes targeting of Hazara Shias. A separatist insurgency, Al Qaeda linked sectarian outfits, supported clandestinely and allegedly by the Pakistan Army, and sharing borders with Iran and Afghanistan could be possible reasons for the deteriorating situation.
However, Zehri would rather blame the Indian spy agency RAW for the violence in Quetta. The arrest of alleged RAW officer Kulbushan Yadav and his confession of masterminding attacks in Karachi and links to Baloch separatists is often brought up by the army chief and the home minister of Balochistan as lending credence to this claim. The Pakistan media though is sceptical of this claim. Syed Talat Hussain, political commentator and host at Geo News tweeted: “Quetta is the center of Southern Command, if RAW is operating there with such impunity it is scary.”
CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) and RAW
On April 14, 2016, Secretary Defence (Retd) Gen Alam Khattak said that RAW had established a special cell at its headquarters in New Delhi to sabotage CPEC project and the plan is executed via Afghanistan. “RAW and Afghan NDS have launched joint secret operations against Pakistan by using three Indian consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. The three consulates in Afghanistan are providing weapons, money, training and other logistical support to agents for subversive activities in FATA, Balochistan and Karachi.”
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project was launched in April 2015 as part of China’s ‘Silk Road’ enterprise to make inroads into Middle Eastern and European markets. The project worth 46 billion US dollars was seen as game-changer in Pakistan. However, observers’ back then had predicted that the separatist insurgency in Balochistan could undermine the $46bn project. A special force has been raised to protect the Chinese engineers working on CPEC but this attack is sure to slow down their pace.
Meanwhile, though the Pakistan army is claiming that things are improving in the country especially after they launched an operation in North Waziristan and Karachi, two Rangers were killed in one of Karachi’s busiest streets last week.
The author can be contacted on Twitter @Kishalay