Islamabad, January 9
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday met the families of 11 coal miners killed in a brutal attack by the Islamic State terrorists in the restive Balochistan province, hours after the minority Shia Hazara community members ended their week-long protest and buried the bodies.
The miners from the Shia Hazara community were shot dead after being abducted by the Islamic State terrorists on Sunday in the Mach area of the restive province.
Following the incident, their relatives and hundreds of other members of the community sat on a protest along with the coffins having victims’ bodies in the Western Bypass area of provincial capital Quetta amid intense cold, insisting that they will bury the dead only when the Prime Minister personally visits them to assure protection.
However, Khan on Friday stirred a controversy by saying that he would not be blackmailed and visit only if the dead were buried.
Khan’s remarks invited sharp criticism from across the country, prompting a flurry of official activities to convince the families to perform the burial rites and end the controversy caused by the callous statement.
The deadlock ended after Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan visited the protesters for the second time and accepted their demands and told them about the Prime Minister’s plan to visit them soon.
Hours after the miners were laid to rest at Quetta’s Hazara Town cemetery, Prime Minister Khan visited the capital of Balochistan and met the families of ethnic Hazaras killed in the brutal terrorist attack.
Khan also chaired a meeting on law and order in the province which was attended by Balochistan Chief Minister, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and others.
Commenting on his controversial remarks urging the community to avoid “blackmailing” the Prime Minister, he said: “You need to understand that things are different for a Prime Minister. When I was a regular citizen I came to visit you. No one can guarantee that an incident doesn’t happen in the country.
“So that’s why I sent messages to bury the deceased and said that I will come to offer my condolences. But when you make it a condition, it will set a precedent,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn News.
He assured the community that the government and the entire nation stood with them.
He added that his mission was to not just unite the people of the country but also those across the Muslim world.
The announcement to end the week-long sit-in protests was made by the Shuhada Action Committee and representatives of Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen, a Shiite political party.
“All of our demands have been accepted…The families have decided to bury their martyrs,” a member of the Hazara Shuhada Committee told reporters in Quetta after the late-night talks between the protesters and senior government functionaries.
As per the agreement, the government will take action against those responsible for negligence in the Machh incident. A high-level commission, led by the provincial Home Minister, has been formed for investigation.
The Balochistan government will also pay Rs 15 lakh compensation to each of the families of the victims and also provide employment to the family members.
This is not the first time that the Hazaras have been targeted by extremist outfits in Balochistan. In the last few years, hundreds of Hazaras have been killed in either suicide bomb attacks, planted bomb blasts or target killings.
Hazaras are disproportionately targeted by sectarian violence as they are easily identifiable due to their distinctive physical appearance.
Balochistan has witnessed violence against Hazaras for more than a decade and half by militants who consider them as heretics.
The Hazaras are part of the Shia community who live in Balochistan and Afghanistan. They have been often targeted by the Sunni militants.
The province has been troubled for some time now with terrorists and militants from sectarian and separatist groups operating in the province and carrying out attacks on security forces, installations, the Shia Hazara community members or even labourers/workers from other provinces. PTI