We live in a land where food is expensive, but blood comes cheap: Bilawal to Hazara community

Maryam Nawaz also speaks to the community, says a "callous" leader "does not deserve the seat of power"

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PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses the Hazara community, in Quetta, on January 7, 2021. — YouTube
  • PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz visit the Hazara protesters' camp in Quetta
  • Opposition leaders extend condolences and pledge solidarity and support to the mourning families
  • Bilawal demands that the state implement National Action Plan; Maryam says a "callous" leader "does not deserve the seat of power"

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari spoke at length to the Hazara community in Quetta on Thursday, condoling the deaths of their brethren who were brutally killed by terrorists five days ago.

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

Bilawal deplored the state's failure to implement the National Action Plan for deterrence of such crimes and how every time one comes to visit the community, it is because such an incident has occurred.

"Pakistan is a country where even the bodies of our deceased loved ones have to protest (for their rights). We live in a land where everything is expensive — gas, electricity and food — but the blood of our labourers comes cheap," said the PPP chairman.

His remarks came as a protest against the killings in Quetta entered the fifth day, with the heirs of the deceased refusing to bury them until Prime Minister Imran Khan comes and visits them. The premier has told the Hazara community he is cognisant of their suffering and demands and promised he will come and visit them "very soon", asking them to not delay burying their dead.

Read: Balochistan CM Jam Kamal once again requests Hazaras to bury slain coal miners

Bilawal said that since 1999, 2,000 Hazaras have died "but not even one family was provided justice".

He recalled a past occasion where a protest by the community with 100 bodies took place, and when demands were made. "Our government folded and then a new government came. And now again, another government has come and again you are protesting. And you have only one demand: that you be allowed to live."

He said that this sole demand is being echoed across Pakistan, on the streets of Karachi, Islamabad and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and all the supporters and well-wishers of the Hazara continue to stand by them.

Take a look: Karachi traffic at a standstill with 19 sit-ins across city over Machh massacre

"I can only promise you, that I, too, belong to a family of martyrs. We, too, have been unable to get justice. I promise you, the way we work day and night to ask for justice, you too are our brethren [...] till the day I die, and till I continue to serve the people, it will be my effort to (secure the lives of all our people)."

Bilawal said he appeals to the state to look to the needs of the people "who are the ones who love Pakistan the most".

"If you cannot provide these people justice, then who will we provide justice to? What will we tell the world? That we cannot guarantee the right to life here?"

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz saying a prayer for the slain coal miners, in Quetta, on January 7, 2021. — Geo News

Bilawal said it is the state's foremost duty to guarantee the protection of the citizens' lives and then it can look to employment and economic progress. He said, even in these areas, the Hazaras suffer injustice.

"But we will not speak about those issues. We only demand justice and the right to live."

"You promised to eradicate terrorism [...] and if today the terrorists can not only attack us, but spread hate also, then our National Action Plan has failed.

"We do not want to hear that foreign elements are involved. It is our state's failure if they succeed to murder our citizens like this," the PPP chairman said.

He said the state will have to begin with these people, and provide them safety and justice.

"We support all your demands and promise to you that in this injustice and oppression you are facing, the PPP will always stand by you, and soon we will also share in your happiness," Bilawal said.

'Is your ego greater than these people?'

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz addresses the Hazara community, in Quetta, on January 7, 2021. — YouTube

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz was next to speak, saying she cannot find the words to express her grief and to console the people gathered there.

"I salute you all. You have more than 2,000 people you have lost. Each one of you is an open book, telling the story of such pain and sorrow."

"I ask Imran Khan, these bodies that lie here, is your ego greater than these?"

She asked whether he is not coming out of fear of criticism. "So what? Come here and listen to the criticism a while [...] but it is your duty to come here and share in their grief."

Maryam said that the people are not asking for anything extraordinary. She lamented that she heard someone say they will wait for a 100 days if that is what it takes.

She said she also heard how the mercury drops as low as -8 degrees and these people sit in the open and wait for the prime minister to come.

Also read: Maryam Nawaz urges Hazara community not to wait for an insensitive, heartless man

"I lament the callousness of the one in the seat of power. You are calling out to him and he does not have the time to come."

She said she does not know what she can do, but raise her voice for the people of the Hazara community. She asked the prime minister to think of his children and family and imagine the pain that these people are enduring.

"You are that community that has been loyal to the land and have fully participated in the progress of Pakistan. It is now the state's responsibility to look to your needs and soothe your wounds," she said, adding that the leader that does not do so "does not deserve to remain in the seat of power".

"We will not allow him to remain in Islamabad."

Maryam closed by saying she will do whatever is possible for her party to do, saying she considers herself their sister and daughter.

She later went to visit the women members of the community to express her condolences and share in their sorrow.

The incident

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

They were kidnapped before dawn on Sunday as they slept near a 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. Most were shot, however some were beheaded, said officials who did not want to be named.

Afghanistan asks Pakistan to return bodies of three Afghans executed in Machh tragedy

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

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