Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University is the only women university in the city of Quetta and was established in March 2004. Around 3,000 female students are currently studying at the university. On June 15, when these young women were home-bound, their bus met an explosion; the deafening sound could be heard miles away. Upon hearing the powerful sound nearby, people rushed to the scene. They couldn’t believe their eyes when they found bodies of innocent young women torn to pieces. It was the first ever organised attack on the women of Balochistan.
Soon after the blast, the bus caught fire, which further added to the death toll. Initially, 10 female students were reported to have been killed. The dead bodies and the injured were moved to Bolan Medical Complex, which is located within close proximity to the university. Security personnel, along with higher officials, rushed to the hospital where another suicide blast took place, not only multiplying the numbers of the dead, but also targeting the high officials.
The hospital echoed with gunshots soon after, as a skirmish broke out between the security personnel and the terrorists. This further resulted in the death of at least 25 people, including 14 female students of the university, along with the deputy commissioner of Quetta. Four security personnel and four nurses also died. It was said that the attackers were firing from within the hospital and this further added to the number of those injured.
This is the first major terrorist incident since the new provincial government took office, last week. Soon after the horrific incident, cliched statements followed from officials and they vowed to treat the terrorists with an iron hand.
Earlier that day, Ziarat Residency, 80km south-east of Quetta City, was blown to ruins by separatists. The last home of the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was destroyed by Pakistanis. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks in Ziarat. The separatists removed the Pakistan flag and hoisted the BLA flag in its place.
Conspiracy theorists believe that the June 15 rocket attacks on Ziarat Residency, the bomb blast in the women university bus and the one in Bolan Medical Complex were a simple message to the Balochistan government. They say it is interlinked with the cases of missing persons and Nawab Akbar Bugti’s killers.
On June 9, 2013, just a few hours before the oath-taking ceremony of the chief minister of Balochistan, five bullet-riddled bodies were recovered from different parts of the province. This may have been a warning for Dr Abdul Malik Baloch.
The state has never really engaged in formal dialogue with the Taliban and the separatist groups of Balochistan. All possible efforts should be made by both the federal and provincial governments to arrive on the same page when it comes to dealing with militancy.
The unfortunate events that took place on June 15 lay down a real test for the newly-elected government to understand a very clear but very thin line between the ruling elite’s internal and external policies. Many believe that if the government gets through this challenge successfully, it can easily complete its legal term.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2013.