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Assault on the Lawyers of Quetta

Earlier this week, we witnessed a violent terrorist assault take the lives of at least 74 people at Quetta's Civil Hospital in Baluchistan, Pakistan.

The blast, which injured approximately 120 others, targeted the lawyers of the province who had gathered to mourn the murder of their colleague.

For the perpetrators no place is sacred – not even a hospital. This kind of vicious indiscriminate killing is simply inexcusable and serves as another reminder why we must stand firmly together against terrorism, no matter where it happens in the world.

The attack has been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) and Talibani factions (Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba), as well as Daesh themselves. The sheer lack of unanimity shows how little collective control such groups have, using Baluchistan as a sort of experimental battleground.

Quetta has long been a site of instability in Pakistan. Home to a substantial Shia Hazara community and several other minority communities, there have been more than 1400 violent attacks recorded in the past 15 years in this region. A series of attacks in January 2013 prompted the families of the victims to engage in a disturbing protest demanding better government protection against sectarian attacks. They camped out alongside dozens of coffins in the streets refusing to conduct the burial rites of the deceased until something was done.

This time, many of those killed were lawyers and social activists who had gathered to mourn Bilal Kasi, a “prominent and outspoken” lawyer. The suicide bomb appears to have been deliberately planned to target the mourners, with the perpetrators fully expecting the huge turnout. An entire generation of thinking activists was wiped out in one attack.

Given that education and literacy in Baluchistan is at one of the lowest rates in Pakistan, this incident is a great deal more sinister than usual. What we are witnessing is an insidious attack on the intellectual and educated class – known to be a peaceful force challenging militancy in the region and employing peaceful tools to uphold human rights for their communities.

For the terrorist groups involved, the more havoc caused and infrastructure devastated, the better for their cause. The lower the presence of critical thought in the region, the easier it will be to employ a diabolical force of power to manipulate and wreak greater destruction.

The sense of loss and grief following this assault is still unfolding. We, too, must remember those who have been taken away so cruelly and denounce terrorism wherever it may occur.