Balochistan CM visits protesting Hazaras, requests them to bury slain coal miners

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People mourn their relatives, who were coal miners from Hazara community killed in an attack in Mach area of Bolan district, as they protest demanding justice, in Quetta, Pakistan January 4, 2021. Photo: Reuters

  • Ali Zaidi urges protestors to bury the dead, assures them PM Imran Khan will arrive and meet them in Quetta
  • Protestors refuse to end the sit-in, however; local leader says they want prime minister there as 'we are calling him here as our leader'
  • Protests spread to other parts of the country as anger over brazen killing of miners grows

QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal on Wednesday visited the protest camp of the Hazara families and urged them to bury the slain coal miners. He appealed to let go of the condition that they will only do so if Prime Minister Imran Khan visits them.

The visit came after talks between the government and members of the Hazara community to end the latter's sit-in following the brutal killing of coal miners in Machh ended inconclusively on Tuesday night, with the protesters persistent in saying they would not bury the dead till Prime Minister Imran Khan arrives to their camp. 

Addressing the sit-in participants, CM Kamal said that he was really saddened after hearing about the incident. He added that he understands the pain of the Hazara community.

“If the problem gets resolved by PM Imran’s visit then he will not spare two minutes to come here,” said CM Kamal. He added that it was them and him who will bring peace in Balochistan.

He once again urged the protestors to bury the slain coal miners. 

Earlier, the CM also spoke to memebrs of the Hazara community and the media after arriving at Imambargah Wali Asr in Hazara Town. Federal minister Ali Zaidi, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Zulfi Bukhari and National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri accompanied him.

During his meeting with Hazara representatives the CM assured the community that his government was working towards eradicating terrorism since he took office.

“It is the responsibility of the government to improve the situation in city and province,” said Kamal. He added that he was in solidarity with the Hazara community, adding that they will visit the families of the deceased.

While federal minister Ali Zaidi said that he had spoken to PM Imran Khan and he had said that he would visit Quetta.

“Those who have been martyred should be buried,” said Ali Zaidi. He once again appealed them to not keep the burial dependent on PM Imran Khan’s visit. 

On Tuesday talks were held between Ali Zaidi and members of the Hazara community a day after Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s visit failed to end the protest. 

We are calling him [PM Imran Khan] here as our leader. The prime minister's visit will not diminish his prestige, but elevate it — local leader Agha Raza

Zaidi had met the protesters and assured them that the perpetrators of the Machh tragedy will be caught soon. 

However, the families of the deceased refused to end the sit-in and bury the victims of the tragedy, saying they will only end the protest after the prime minister meets them.

“Nothing can happen before the prime minister’s arrival. If he cannot come today, then he can come tomorrow,” a relative of one of the slain miners said.

Read more: Hazara community launches protests in Quetta over Machh massacre

“Balochistan has turned into a graveyard. Where is the responsibility of the state?” asked the families of the victims. 

Protesters demanded to know how many of those who were involved in killing Hazaras over the years been convicted. 

“Call [PM] Imran Khan, we are sitting here in -10 °C,” said one protester. 

Federal minister Ali Zaidi regretted the loss of life in the Machh incident but appealed to the families of the victims to not subject the bodies of the coal miners to any further 'cruelty'.

Zaidi says external elements behind Machh massacre

Zaidi admitted that “grave acts of cruelty” had been committed against the Hazara community over a period of time.

“There is an outside hand involved in such heinous incidents,” said Zaidi, adding that the government was aware as to who the perpetrator was. 

“This is a well-planned conspiracy against the country,” the minister said about the Machh incident. 

He added that representatives of the government had arrived in Quetta on the instructions of the prime minister to negotiate with the protestors. 

Read more: Karachi's Hazaras fear for their safety as well

However, local Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen leader Agha Raza told the minister that Imran Khan’s arrival in Quetta to meet protestors should not be considered as a 'condition'.

“On the one hand, the PDM is demanding his resignation — we are calling him here as our leader,” Raza said. He added that the prime minister's visit will not diminish his prestige but rather elevate it.

People gather near the coffins of their relatives, who were coal miners from Hazara community killed in an attack in Mach area of Bolan district, as they protest demanding justice, in Quetta, Pakistan January 4, 2021. Photo: Reuters

Women and children attend Quetta protest

Members of the Hazara community have staged a continuous sit-in in Quetta in freezing temperatures to demand justice for the slain coal miners who were gunned down in Machh four days ago.

The bodies of the deceased have been kept where the community is staging its demonstration, on the Quetta-Sibi highway (Western Bypass), near the Hazara Town.

Due to the presence of the protesters, the area is completely blocked off to traffic.

Read more: Shaikh Rasheed arrives in Quetta, holds high-level meeting

A large group of women and children are also at the protest, holding photographs of their loved ones killed in the tragic incident.

"We will not end our protest until the arrest of all the assassins," chief of Balochistan Shia Conference Agha Daud had told AFP on Tuesday.

"The latest wave of killings will spread to other cities, including Quetta, if a decisive action is not taken at this stage," he added.

Ministers meet protestors

Multiple high-ranking officials have visited the protesters and tried to negotiate with them, but they have refused to end the sit-in till PM Imran Khan meets them. 

Earlier, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove had visited the protesters' camp along with other provincial ministers.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed had also visited Quetta and briefed PM Imran Khan over the protests.

Rasheed had told protestors on Monday that he is ready to accept all the demands of the Hazara, except the resignation of the Balochistan government.

Rasheed had also announced compensation amounting to Rs2.5 million for the families of each of the deceased coal miners.

Protests in support of the Hazara community have also spread to other cities, including Karachi and Gilgit.

The incident

Ten colliers were killed and four others seriously injured on Sunday after armed men attacked them at a coal field in Balochistan's Bolan district.

The coal miners, according to police, were taken to nearby mountains where they were shot.

The 10 miners were kidnapped before dawn on Sunday as they slept near the remote coal mine in the southwestern mountainous Machh area — 60 kilometres southeast of Quetta city, local government official Abid Saleem said.

Security officials who did not want to be named told AFP the attackers first separated the miners before tying their hands and feet and taking them into the hills to kill them.

Read more: armed men attack coal miners at Machh

Two of the miners were Afghans and their bodies have been sent to Afghanistan for burial, a local security official told AFP.

Officials on Monday clarified ten people had died in the attack, revising a previous death toll of 11, AFP reported.

The militant group Daesh has claimed the attack, according to SITE Intelligence, which monitors militant activities worldwide.