KARACHI: On Aug 8, Advocate Aminullah Kakar was at the High Court in Quetta around 9am when he got to know about the fatal attack on Balochistan Bar Association’s President Bilal Anwar Kasi. He was among the first group of lawyers who immediately left for the Civil Hospital which is a five-minute drive from the court.

Speaking to Dawn by phone on Monday, Advocate Aminullah, who is also the former general secretary of the Balochistan Bar Association, narrated the events ahead of the attack at the hospital where lawyers had gathered to mourn their president’s killing. Aminullah was shifted to Karachi along with 26 other injured on the day the attack occurred.

On reaching the Civil Hospital, Aminullah first visited the mortuary where Kasi’s body was kept, “which had eight bullet wounds in the chest,” he added, and from there, approached Kasi’s family to ask them a few questions.

“I asked his brother, Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) judge, Tariq Kasi, if they had a tribal or political conflict with someone. We needed to know since we were planning to hold a protest outside the governor’s house and wanted his family’s permission to take Kasi’s body with us,” he said. Tariq Kasi denied having any conflict with any group whether tribal or political.

Examine: Who is behind the Quetta carnage after all?

On getting the confirmation, and waiting for his brother’s response, Aminullah went outside to speak to the growing group of lawyers. “We were standing at the back of the casualty ward and discussing how so many outsiders were allowed inside the hospital. It was worrying since we thought there might be an attack inside the hospital. One of our colleagues volunteered to speak to the hospital administration. Just then there was an explosion and I was thrown back along with countless others,” he added.

Aminullah woke up inside the same hospital, with a fractured arm and dislocated shoulder. “We hadn’t received threats as reported by the media. One or two lawyers might have received threats. But then why attack a hundred others to get back at a few of us?” Answering his own question, he said that it appeared well-planned. “Attack the bar president, gather protesting lawyers at the hospital; then attack the hospital,” he added.

At present, 77 injured of the Quetta blast are under treatment at the AKUH on the joint expenditure of the federal and Balochistan governments. Heads and members of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and Sindh Bar Council (SBC), among others, visit their injured colleagues almost every day. According to Aminullah, the general consensus among the lawyers is that Jamaatul Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is not behind the attack. Explaining, he said, “We are still gathering information from our community members and, so far, we don’t think this is the work of a militant organisation. Balochis­tan has been under strict surveillance and the powers that control our province don’t want stronger groups to form and emerge to challenge their supremacy. This was the message sent to the lawyer community.”

Security analyst and head of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies in Islamabad, Amir Rana, says that Jamaatul Ahrar is very much a reality and has been active in Pakistan since 2014 after reforming alliances since military operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched. He says there are two ways of gauging the authenticity of a militant claim after an attack. In JuA’s case, it can be gauged through the video it releases after every big attack. “The JuA planned and executed 66 attacks in Pakistan and around 23 in this year alone. After every big attack, be it the one it carried out in Lahore’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, or the one at the polio vaccination centres in Quetta, the JuA has a set pattern of releasing a video which they did in the Quetta case as well,” he added. In other cases, Rana adds, the authenticity of a claim dies out if the said militant group “runs away without the evidence to substantiate its rhetoric”.

Explaining further, he said that blaming outside forces, such as Indian spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), is “temporarily comforting but people need evidence which the state is lacking”.

Meanwhile, Aminullah will be discharged after two days but will remain under treatment for 42 days. “The doctors found bacteria in my right shoulder wound which was removed after two surgeries. I developed other issues, including discontinuity in urine and a ruptured eardrum, which needs continued medical attention,” he said. Constantly thanking the Balochistan chief minister and the army, Aminullah said, “I’m mentally preparing myself for the flight back home. We are just beginning to feel the impact of this attack.”

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2016