Bewailing The Eternal Mourners

Bewailing The Eternal Mourners – The Quetta blast has shattered our society’s most vocal segment

“My uncles, friends and cousins could have been amongst the dead had the attack happened in a different provincial capital.”

This thought causes goosebumps every time I think of the entire generation of lawyers who perished in Quetta’s bomb blast.

The horror took place when dozens of ‘black coats’ visited a government hospital in Quetta upon learning of an assassination attempt on a colleague, unmindful that the incident was nothing but a bait and it was them who were being led to the slaughterhouse. Taking advantage of this vast gathering of lawyers, a suicide-bomber detonated explosives attached to his vest and scores of mentors, sons, friends, demonstrators, husbands, pleaders and fathers who had pledged to stand for justice, equality and the rule of law were slaughtered en masse. It has been rightly said that an entire generation of lawyers from Balochistan was ‘decimated’ within minutes. The legal profession lost many invaluable individuals who had spent their lives helping the wronged and abused in seeking solace and justice. It will take the new entrants decades to get the legal practice in Balochistan back to where it was before the 7th of August, 2016.

After every onslaught we ask the same question: who failed whom? The dilemma with this question is that everybody has a favorite ‘whom’. The liberals and nationalists say it is the many ‘agencies’ who failed to do their job and are thus squarely responsible. The overly patriotic folks are of the opinion that it is ‘RAW+Mossad+Khad+CIA’ who are responsible for such activities. Or let me simplify it further, the khaki-lovers say it is a conspiracy hatched and acted upon by the ever-elusive ‘foreign elements’. The khaki-bashers recite a line from Yeats’ ‘The Second Coming’, after making minor amends to it; ‘Things fall apart; the ‘Aabpara’ cannot hold’.

Balochistan has been under fire for a very long time. It would be silly of us to deny the presence of an ever-present and expanding separatist movement in the province. An eye-opener was served when last month Mr. Zahid Gishkori did a gut-wrenching story on Balochistan. According to official documents, in the past 6 years more than 1,000 bullet-ridden dead bodies have been recovered from the province. A majority of the mutilated corpses belonged to ethnic Balochs, followed by Pashtuns. And we must not forget that these are documented statistics, acknowledged and owned by the government and are now a matter of public record. At the expense of sounding cynical, dare I pull a Disraeli here; he said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” I won’t elaborate any further.

But all is neither bleak and dreary nor presages doom. Things have also improved for the better. The intensity and occurrence of terrorist attacks have been reduced considerably – Operation Zarb-e-Azb has significantly improved the overall security situation in the country. The Pakistan where bomb blasts had become routine incidents has now changed. Now every time we hear about a bomb blast, our response is one of astonishment and fear. We have, without doubt, shed our desensitized selves of yesteryears when nothing used to shock us any further. Every massacre registered itself only to be forgotten the next day. Team Sharif, as our PM and Army Chief are lovingly called, must be given credit for making us feel, behave and react like human beings again.

But we should also ask ourselves why we didn’t pay much-needed heed towards the National Action Plan (NAP) before? Where had we shelved the promised ‘cure-all’ for the past one and a half year? There wasn’t much talk later on about the panacea we were promised in January 2015. I guess in the wake of the Quetta blast we’ve been reminded of it. The back to back civil-military deliberations and consensus in the aftermath of Quetta will surely enliven the previously forgotten NAP.

As far as Balochistan is concerned, one Yadhav, dearest sirs and madams, won’t be enough to pin the blame on for the muddle we are in. Catching a spy, holding a media briefing after it and announcing that he has admitted to having masterminded every rotten deed is a good public-relations (PR) exercise aimed at reassuring the local audience of their age old ‘the world is against us’ narrative right on their beloved tellies. But is it really anything more than flaunting a prisoner as a ‘big catch’ while praying that it’ll attract the envious glances of all the ‘concerned’ enemies.

Let me recount a personal experience. I was there when a terrorist blew himself to smithereens while attacking a gathering of lawyers almost a decade back. It was one scorching evening in the July of 2007 and I was waiting outside my academy in the main market of sector F-8, Islamabad. I was chatting with my friends when all of a sudden we heard this loud deafening blast. Immediately afterwards, within minutes in fact, the police started closing down the area near Islamabad katcheri situated in the same vicinity. A friend and I rushed home on his bike. Once home, I searched frantically for the remote control, found it on the table and turned on the TV. The anchor was giving details of the deadly blast aimed at lawyers. The sound I had heard back there was being announced as the blast that had silenced 17 lives forever. I had heard the blast and I had seen the light it emanated. The distance of a few hundred meters had spared me the sight of the gore and I had fled before the screams of agony had reached me.

And for those who wonder what the black color of our coats stands for: dearest sirs and madams, it stands for mourning. Lawyers don it as they mourn the lawlessness, the abuse of power and the injustice. We wear our black coats as they symbolize our understanding of the pain, suffering and agony that brings a hapless individual to the blindfolded Lady Justice. Let us solemnly bewail the eternal mourners. May their souls rest in peace.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any other organization with which he might be associated.

Shah Nawaz Mohal

Author: Shah Nawaz Mohal

The writer is a law graduate and currently works as an investigative journalist and columnist at Pakistan Today, Islamabad Bureau.