Pakistan dispatch: deadly terror attacks again show the state cannot protect the people’s constitutional right to life Dispatches
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Pakistan dispatch: deadly terror attacks again show the state cannot protect the people’s constitutional right to life

Law students and law graduates in Pakistan are reporting for JURIST on events in that country impacting its legal system. Izhar Ahmed Khan is a 2022 LL.B. graduate of the Pakistan College of Law (University of London International Program). He files this from Lahore.   

Last Friday, September 29th, a day meant to be a day of celebration for Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi (the Birthday of Prophet Muhammad) tragically turned into a day of mourning in Pakistan when twin attacks on mosques here claimed the lives of at least 59 people and left dozens injured. The first and most devastating incident happened in Mastung, district of Balochistan, when a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing at least 54 individuals who had gathered for a march commemorating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. The second attack targeted a mosque in Hangu, district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, claiming the lives of at least five more innocent people.

Following these incidents, a social media account on ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) allegedly associated with the Indian spy agency ‘RAW” claimed responsibility for the Mastung attack. The tweet stated: “A DSP for DSP, Always remember, nothing goes unanswered when u attack our Men.” Suspicions from state officials have also been directed towards the Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K) and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), both of whom have been allegedly involved in previous attacks.

In the current security crisis gripping the country, the question of who claimed responsibility or what was tweeted holds little significance. What truly matters is the relentless cycle of violence that continues to affect common people, with no end in sight. Consider the recent suicide bombing in district Bajaur on July 30, for which IS-K claimed responsibility. What has changed since then? Sadly, nothing, except additions to the long list of bombings in Pakistan in year 2023. The prevailing scenario in the country has desensitized people to such bloodshed—only rousing their concern when the number of casualties becomes substantial. This is not because the people of Pakistan are inherently cold or heartless, but rather because these incidents have become distressingly frequent and numbing.

Over the past two and a half decades, Pakistan has witnessed a succession of wars under the banner of the war on terror, resulting in the loss of around 83,000 lives and some $126 billion in expenses. Despite these countless sacrifices, the result is what can be witnessed in the Global Terrorism Index Report for 2023, when it notes Pakistan in the following terms:

“Pakistan remains among the ten countries most affected by terrorism in 2022, with deaths in Pakistan rising significantly to 643, a 120 percent increase from 292 deaths in 2021.”

What is more concerning is that these acts of terror are mainly concentrated in the provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which are predominantly Pashtun majority regions. According to a report issued by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), these regions have witnessed a consistent and alarming increase in violence over the past five years, with 92% of all fatalities occurring in these two provinces in the first nine months of 2023, compared to 72% in 2019.

The current state of affairs lends credence to questions raised by Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan during his address to the Senate of Pakistan on August 2 this year. Senator Mushtaq, while expressing his concerns about a previous suicide attack that had taken place in district Bajaur posed the following questions:

  1. How is it possible that, despite border fencing, the deployment of army and frontier corps, and the presence of intelligence agencies, police, provincial and federal governments, and civil administration, terrorists continue to break into, act, and escape so effortlessly across the border?
  2. When accusations are leveled at Afghanistan for these acts of terror, it is worth noting that Afghanistan shares its borders with five other neighboring countries—Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, China, and Iran. Strikingly, these countries have experienced complete peace, with no reports of terror activities originating from Afghanistan. Why is Pakistan the exception?
  3. Over the past two decades, why have all these terrorist activities and military operations been concentrated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan? Is this part of the country reserved for bombings and terrorism?
  4. Is the Chief Justice of Pakistan not aware of these horrifying incidents? Are the doors of the Supreme Court closed for innocent people? Are the scattered body parts of these innocent people not worthy of a suo moto action?

These questions raised by Senator Mushtaq are not mere inquiries; rather, they underscore the causes of the ongoing disorder in the country. The complexities behind these reasons are extensive, but what remains clear and evident is that the state of Pakistan is in clear violation of the people’s fundamental right to life. It has failed to ensure the citizens’ right to life and liberty as enshrined in Article 9 of the Constitution of the country. In the case of Shehla Zia v. WAPDA, reported as PDL 1994 SC 693, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, while interpreting the term “life,”, as stated in Article 9, noted that life should not be restricted solely to vegetative or animal existence or mere survival from conception to death. Life encompasses all the amenities and facilities that a person born in a free country is entitled to enjoy with dignity, both legally and constitutionally. Regrettably, the reality is that the mere animal existence has been taken away from people, let alone the life with ‘amenities and facilities’.

While there doesn’t seem any hope at present, things may improve, and the shadow of hopelessness and sorrow may dissipate, if the state authorities embrace repentance and accept the irregularities on their part. This will necessitate a return and adherence to the constitution, which has been disregarded since its inception. However, if the same path continues, then there should be no surprise that the prevailing ‘rule of barbarianism’ will be repudiated by the people; when people assume agency in determining their destiny, then the course of history changes, and history bears witness to it.