Can there be anything worse than bomb blasts at hospitals? On more than one occasion in our country, places where doctors struggle to save lives have themselves been targeted by those who seek to maim and kill.
The latest such incident took place on Friday at the Civil Hospital in Quetta, where a bank official shot in the city was brought to the emergency department. His death triggered protests, and a bomb was detonated. Reports suggest that it was a suicide bombing.
The death toll so far is 11 and includes a cameraman covering the incident. Other journalists and two policemen are reported to be among the injured. The question that arises is: how many places can we secure in our cities? At present, in Lahore, armed guards still stand outside schools. In Karachi, security cordons have been thrown around key hospitals following the blast at the Jinnah Hospital emergency department earlier this year.
Almost everywhere policemen patrol markets and security personnel picket on roads. This situation is unsustainable. It is impossible over the long-term to physically guard every street corner and every bazaar. We need other solutions. Quetta and indeed other cities in Balochistan have been caught up in an orgy of violence.
There are reports of new killings almost every day. Some have an ethnic basis, in other cases security personnel are targeted. There have been kidnappings and the tragic gunning down of academics. The bomb blast at a hospital seems to suggest the violence may be accelerating. There is no time to lose. Negotiations need to be opened up with all stake holders in the province.
Mere rhetoric will not suffice. We need immediate action, otherwise there is a danger that the very semblance of order will vanish from Quetta.