Lawyers in Pakistan have begun a nationwide strike after dozens of attorneys were slain in a suicide bombing outside a hospital in the city of Quetta in Balochistan, the country’s poorest province. Authorities said at least 70 people died in the attack, including as many as 60 attorneys; 120 were injured. The suicide bombing targeted lawyers who had assembled outside the hospital to mourn the assassination of Bilal Kasi, the president of the Balochistan Bar Association, who was killed earlier on Monday as he headed to court. Kasi had strongly condemned recent attacks in the province and had announced a two-day boycott of court sessions in protest of the killing of a colleague last week. A faction of the Pakistan Taliban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack and for the murder of Bilal Kasi. ISIS also claimed responsibility.
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AMY GOODMAN: Lawyers in Pakistan have begun a nationwide strike after dozens of attorneys were slain in a suicide bombing outside a hospital in the city of Quetta in Balochistan, the country’s poorest province. Authorities said at least 70 people died in the attack, including as many as 60 attorneys; 120 were injured. A hospital staff member described the moment of the suicide bombing.
HOSPITAL STAFF MEMBER: [translated] I was coming for my shift at the office. As soon as I reached the gate, there was a blast, and people came running out. I left my bag there, and as I entered, I saw dead bodies scattered all over the place. There was blood all over and injured people covered in blood.
AMY GOODMAN: The suicide bombing targeted lawyers who had assembled outside the hospital to mourn the assassination of Bilal Kasi, the president of the Balochistan Bar Association, who was killed earlier Monday as he headed to court. Kasi had strongly condemned recent attacks in the province and had announced a two-day boycott of court sessions in protest of the killing of a colleague last week. Earlier today, lawyers and members of the legal profession gathered outside the closed High Court building in Karachi to offer funeral prayers for colleagues who had perished in the massacre.
LATIF KHOSA: [translated] We, all of us lawyers, have sprayed the symbolic sign of blood on our clothes to show that not only are all of us shedding tears and blood, but also to show that our sentiments, our vigor, our strength, our spirit will increase after this incident. Those who believe that these lawyers or this nation will become scared or nervous, that they will succeed in their nefarious designs, we want to give them this message, that we will follow them to their last breath, their last resort, their last rat hole. God willing, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with the whole nation and flush these terrorists out of their last sanctuary.
AMY GOODMAN: A faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack and for the murder of Bilal Kasi. ISIS also claimed responsibility.
To find out more about the implications of the attack, we go to Lahore, Pakistan, where we’re joined by Asma Jahangir, one of Pakistan’s leading human rights lawyers. She’s a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan.
Our condolences on what has taken place, Asma Jahangir. Can you talk about what you understand happened?
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, from what I’ve heard — I still have not been to Balochistan; I will be going there tomorrow, whenever I get a flight seat — but one of our colleagues, who was president of the Balochistan Bar, was targeted and shot. And it was very well planned, because whenever something happens to a lawyer, we all go together, and we go and commiserate, we stand together. There’s a lot of bonding amongst the legal fraternity. And it was predictable that once he was shot, that people would follow him to the hospital. So there was a suicide bomber waiting for this opportunity, where a large number of lawyers did gather. The hospital was very close to the courts. And a large number of lawyers were indeed on their way to the hospital when the suicide bombing took place. Some of our colleagues, who had just left the hospital or were in the hospital but left the spot of the occurrence, described the scene to us as quite harrowing.
And, of course, I mean, it’s very clear from what has happened and from the previous threats that bar associations have got, that now the terrorists want to do away with Pakistan’s intellectuals, including lawyers, and particularly lawyers because they stand for rule of law, they condemn all forms of terrorism, they condemn all forms of violence, and equally condemn any kind of misuse of the law by the security apparatus.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain? There is the Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, that have claimed responsibility, and now ISIS has claimed responsibility.
ASMA JAHANGIR: Well, as far as we can see, because there is very little transparency in this war on terror ever since it started, but what we can see is that it’s the same group of people who change their names. And unfortunately, not enough has been done to counter it. Not enough has been done to weed them out.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Asma Jahangir, who is the formal president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. We’re talking to her in Lahore. I want to turn to comments made by the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. He was speaking on Monday on CNN.
HUSAIN HAQQANI: Pakistanis continue to pay the ultimate price because of a wrong policy that has been in place for almost a quarter-century. Pakistan’s military and intelligence services think that they can make distinctions between various jihadi groups, those that are targeting Pakistan and those that target Afghanistan and India. They befriend one set of groups, and they do not — they act against the other. Unfortunately, the jihadis don’t think that way, and they basically move seamlessly between groups.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking Monday, the U.S. State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau said the attacks targeted the key institutions of a democratic society.
ELIZABETH TRUDEAU: We offer our assistance to Prime Minister Sharif as his government investigates and works to bring these murderers to justice. These terrorists targeted a hospital, the judiciary and the media, the most important pillars of democracy. These brutal and senseless attacks only deepen our shared resolve to defeat terrorism around the world.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking about the hospital bombing in Quetta that killed more than 70 people. We’re going to go to break and then come back to our guest in Lahore. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’ll be back in a minute.