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Quetta Attack Sparks Nationwide Lawyers' Strike in Pakistan

There were conflicting claims of responsibility for the bombing in Quetta.
Image: Lawyers protest
Pakistani lawyers in Lahore on Tuesday protested the suicide bombing in Quetta.K.M. Chaudary / AP
/ Source: Reuters

ISLAMABAD/QUETTA, Pakistan — Pakistani lawyers staged a nationwide strike Tuesday after dozens of colleagues were slain in a suicide bombing at a government hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta.

More than 70 people died in Monday's attack.

Medical staff said up to 60 of those slain were lawyers who had gathered to mourn the earlier assassination of the president of the Baluchistan Bar Association, Bilal Anwar Kasi.

ISIS was one of two Islamist militant groups to claim responsibility for the atrocity, although officials and analysts said they had doubts over whether it was behind the blast.

Image: Lawyers protest
Pakistani lawyers in Lahore on Tuesday protested the suicide bombing in Quetta.K.M. Chaudary / AP

The bombing was the latest, and deadliest, in a string of attacks against lawyers in Pakistan, seen by some militants as an extension of the government and so legitimate targets.

"How weak and pathetic are these people who target hospitals, where women and children, where patients, go to get treatment?" Ashtar Ausaf Ali, Pakistan's attorney general, said Tuesday at a protest outside the Supreme Court in the capital Islamabad.

Supreme Court Bar President Ali Zafar called for the government to do more to protect lawyers.

"An attack on lawyers makes a mockery of the law enforcement agencies, it undermines the promises of the state against terrorists and breeds fear among vulnerable citizens," said Ali Malik, a Lahore-based lawyer.

The Quetta bombing was initially claimed by Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban that is fighting to overthrow the government and impose strict Islamic law.

Later, however, ISIS said one of its fighters carried out the attack, in what would mark an escalation in the ability of the group, or its regional offshoots, to strike in Pakistan.

Some Pakistani analysts were skeptical.

"The ISIS claim seems very unconvincing," said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad.

"The claim of responsibility by Jamaat-ur-Ahrar is more credible," said Muhammad Amir Rana, head of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.