Wed, Aug 10, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Pakistan lawyers boycott courts after hospital blast

AFP, QUETTA, Pakistan

Pakistan’s top lawyers said they would yesterday boycott court proceedings throughout much of the country in protest after a suicide bomb killed 70 people in Balochistan Province, including many from the legal profession.

Monday’s attack on a hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta was one of the deadliest in the country’s long battle against militancy.

The explosion occurred as about 200 lawyers along with journalists had gathered at Civil Hospital to mourn the fatal shooting of a top provincial lawyer, with witnesses describing horrific scenes as medics battled to save scores of wounded.

“Lawyers throughout the country will boycott court proceedings on Tuesday in protest against the killing of lawyers in Quetta yesterday,” the Pakistan Bar Council said in a statement, adding that provincial and district bar councils would follow suit.

Balochistan government spokesman Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar said schools in the province would yesterday also be closed “to mourn the loss.”

Funerals have already been held for many of the victims, he said.

“Those who were living in and close to Quetta city have already buried their loved ones, while those belonging to far-flung areas will be buried today,” he said.

On Monday, officials had put the number of wounded at 112. Twenty-seven of the critically injured were airlifted to Karachi, where a spokesman for Aga Khan Hospital said they were “out of danger now.”

The attack has been claimed by both a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, and the Islamic State group.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which formed in 2014, has also claimed responsibility for Pakistan’s deadliest blast so far this year, a bombing in a crowded Lahore park on Easter that killed 75, among other attacks.

The US Department of State last week designated Jamaat-ul-Ahrar as a terrorist group in a statement that described it as “a splinter group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”

Hours after the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claim, the Islamic State also claimed the attack, saying it had killed 200 people, according to the SITE monitoring group.

The IS has been scrabbling for purchase in Pakistan, largely due to competition from established groups such as the Taliban.

Balochistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has major oil and gas resources, but is afflicted by Muslim militancy, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and a separatist insurgency.

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