Lest We Forget The Human Cost Of The Dhadar Tragedy

Lest We Forget The Human Cost Of The Dhadar Tragedy
“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now”. This memorable line, from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, rang in my mind when I read of the recent dastardly terrorist attack on the vehicle of the Baluchistan Constabulary.

The van was targeted in Dhadar tehsil of Kacchi district on 6 March while carrying policemen returning to Quetta after performing their duties at the Sibi Cultural Festival. At least nine police personnel embraced martyrdom on the spot; thirteen others were injured, some critically.

One section of the news report, amounting only to a peripheral part of the overall information, struck me particularly hard. This concerned the revelation that the scene of the tragedy was strewn with the destroyed pieces of children’s toys carried by the martyred policemen for their progeny.

Inured as we are to sorrow on account of frequent and deadly terrorist atrocities – a situation best described by Ghalib as, “ranj say khugar hua insan to mit jaata hai ranj” – most people who spared time to read the news item probably missed the reference to the blood-stained toys.

But more worryingly, it seems that this heart-rending detail was also overlooked by the government’s high and mighty. At least the perfunctory statements issued by them on the occasion gives fillip to this view.

The utterances of the highest government functionaries followed their usual banal course: the terrorist act was condemned, grief and sorrow were expressed for the martyrs and their families and a reiteration made of the government’s unshakeable resolve to foil conspiracies against peace in Balochistan.

Soul-stirring as no doubt these words are, they probably provided scant comfort to the little hands that will never clutch the toys bought by their fathers from the Sibi fair by squeezing a few rupees out of their modest monthly salary of around forty thousand rupees.

However, if the prime minister, the interior minister and the chief minister had followed up their statements by visiting the bereaved families in Quetta and comforting them, with soothing words and tangible measures of support and succor, that may well have begun their long journey of healing. A bucketful of toys handed by the worthy personages to the orphaned children would have been a wonderfully humane and considerate act to help assuage their pain.

However, while the standard monetary compensation for martyrs has been duly announced by the Balochistan government, and thankfully at an enhanced rate, sadly no visit has been made to the grief-stricken families by the high and mighty of the land, and none seems to be on the cards.

Not too long ago, the prime minister was, to his credit, in Turkiye – comforting Turkish citizens who had lost loved ones in last month’s devastating earthquake. Would it be asking too much for him to journey to Quetta and also apply balm to the wounds of the twenty or so families affected by the Dhadar attack?

At the very least, Rana Sanaullah should have flown to Quetta immediately after the atrocity, attended the funerals of the deceased, visited the injured and met with the bereaved families. Above all, he should have conferred with local police and intelligence commanders and devised a strategy to minimize, if not eliminate, the chances of any recurrence of such a fell deed. Alas, the interior minister has only been conspicuous by his absence in Quetta since the day of the tragedy.

The questions that must be plaguing the minds of the mourners in Quetta are not hard to fathom: who is responsible for the deaths of their loved ones; why were adequate security measures not in place for the vehicle in which their family members were targeted; what measures is the government taking to punish the perpetrators; and why has the interior minister, if not the prime minister himself, darkened their door?

At the very least, are these poor souls not even entitled to answers to these painful questions? Or are they deserving of being shown no consideration, affection or even a simple gesture which acknowledges their loss?  Is the blood of their martyrs that cheap and are they only considered cannon fodder?

This country has been cursed by a seemingly unending scourge of terrorism. Close to 90,000 lives, of innocent civilians and LEA personnel, have been lost during the bloody campaign that various terrorists, of one ruthless hue or the other, have waged against the state for over fifteen years. Lamentably, no end to this terrible nightmare is in sight.

While one expects the government to strain every sinew for physically countering the terrorists, it is also incumbent on them to boost the morale of the LEAs. This can be done by ensuring that the memory of their fallen comrades is appropriately marked, the families of the martyrs are properly provided for and due honour is given to them in acknowledgement of their family member’s supreme sacrifice. The jawans and officers of the Balochistan Constabulary still await this salute from the government for the unsung martyrs at Dhadar.

In the words of, Abraham Lincoln, “a nation that does not honour its heroes will not long endure”. If we want this troubled land to be blessed someday in the not-too-distant future with peace and a normal existence, then these weighty words of the former American president should be carefully borne in mind and acted upon, not only by our leaders but by all of us.

The writer is a barrister with over twenty years of varied legal practice in Pakistan, UAE and Australia. He is currently an entrepreneur and the co-founder/operator of an online home-based confectionery business. The history and politics of Pakistan is his abiding passion. He can be reached at yzaman72@yahoo.com.au