Protests erupted in Pakistan after the abduction and murder of 10 coal miners from the Hazara community in Quetta, Balochistan by Islamic State terrorists. The families of the victims refused to bury the dead until Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Kha himself paid a visit to mourn the deaths and much of their demands were accepted by the government. The massacre of Hazaras occurred at Machh in Balochistan’s Bolan district.
According to reports, some of the deceased Hazaras were shot dead while others were beheaded. Hundreds and thousands attended the funeral on Friday after negotiations between the government and protesters who had staged a sit-in. Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen leader Allama Raja Nasir Abbas and other leaders from the Hazara community were present at the cemetery. The attack occurred on Sunday, 3rd January.
The funeral was attended by National Assembly Qasim Suri Deputy Speaker and Special Assistant to the PM Zulfi Bukhari, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langau, provincial minister Mir Arif Jan Mohammad and other government officials.
Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi, speaking to the protesters, said that such “incidents of violence must now come to an end.” “No such written accord has ever been struck before with any other government in power,” he said citing the signing of the agreement with the Shuhda Action Committee.
Zaidi also claimed that “foreign elements wish to create sectarian division in Pakistan” and announced scholarships for the children of deceased. The Chief Minister of Balochistan said that recent events ought to serve as “learning lesson for the rulers of the country,” adding that the demands “should have been met without this sit-in.”
The armed terrorists had entered the residential compound of the Machh coalfield and abducted the sleeping miners from there before murdering them in cold blood. Protests broke out in Karachi and other cities as well demanding protection for the Shia minority community. “This is systematic ethnic cleansing of Hazaras in Balochistan and our security forces are behaving like lame ducks, doing nothing,” an activist said.
Daud Agha, a Shia leader, told reporters, “We want a decisive action and the arrest of all those who killed our people. We are sitting with the bodies of our dear ones here and we will bury them only when Imran Khan comes.” Several flights had to be cancelled in light of the protests.
Imran Khan makes an insensitive comment
Imran Khan had courted a controversy by calling the protesters ‘blackmailers’. “We have accepted all of their demands. [But] one of their demands is that the dead will be buried when the premier visits. I have sent them a message that when all of your demands have been accepted […] you don’t blackmail the prime minister of any country like this,” he had said.
The comment attracted severe criticism from his critics. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) vice president Sherry Rehman said, “He has proved that he is not only incompetent but also ruthless… This fascist prime minister has no empathy for the people… The only brother of six sisters is dead; they have no man left in their family… Does the prime minister still think that their demand is unjust?”
“It saddens me greatly that we have a prime minister like this who is not willing to listen to the voice of a mother, a sister or an aged father,” the mother of an 18-year old victim had said. “We will continue to sit here until he comes. That insensitive man has no feelings for us, but we have no problem with sitting with our loved ones in the cold. We have the determination to sit here for weeks.” Ultimately, he was forced to pay a visit and the dead were buried afterwards.
Who are the Hazaras?
The Hazaras are a Shia ethnic minority community in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Pakistan, they have to suffer persecution because of their ethnicity as well as their Shia faith. Over the years, Hazaras have suffered greatly due to their identity in Pakistan. Data suggests that so far, at least 3000 Hazaras have lost their lives to bombings, car bombings and suicide attacks so far.
There are 4-5 million Hazaras in Afghanistan and nearly a million in Pakistan, many of whom are refugees from the neighbouring country. Hazaras are believed to be descendants of Genghis Khans and other Mongol soldiers who marched through the region in the 13th century.
Hazaras have been a historically persecuted community. As recent as the 19th century, they were sold as slaves. “Hazaras have been systematically discriminated against by Pashtuns and others during the Afghan pre-war periods,” Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, said.
“Even open-minded non-Hazaras with a high degree of education have admitted to me that they feel a certain discomfort when they encounter Hazaras in certain positions of authority in Afghanistan,” said another expert. “They feel they should still be servants and labourers.”
In Afghanistan as well, they are persecuted by the Taliban and Islamic terrorists.