Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday urged the protesting minority Shia Hazara community members to bury the bodies of 11 coal-miners killed by the Islamic State terrorists in southwestern Balochistan province, promising he would visit them “very soon”.
The miners from the Shia Hazara community were shot dead from a close range shortly after being abducted by the Islamic State terrorists on Sunday in the province’s mountainous Machh areas.
Their relatives and hundreds of other members of the community began the protest on Sunday after terrorists abducted and killed miners.
They have been protesting along with the coffins having victims’ bodies in the Western Bypass area of provincial capital Quetta amid harsh cold weather, insisting they will bury their dead only when Prime Minister Khan personally visits them to assure protection.
Hundreds of the Shia community members are also organising protests in Karachi.
“I share your pain & have come to you before also to stand with you in your time of suffering. I will come again very soon to offer prayers and condole with all the families personally. I will never betray my people’s trust. Please bury your loved ones so their souls find peace,” Khan tweeted.
“I want to reassure the Hazara families who lost their loved ones in a brutal terrorist attack in Machh that I am cognisant of their suffering & their demands. We are taking steps to prevent such attacks in the future & know our neighbour is instigating this sectarian terrorism, Khan said in another tweet.
Khan sent his minister for shipping Ali Zaidi and adviser on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari both Shia to meet the protestors.
The two ministers sent by Khan met the protestors along with Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan and requested them to end their protest. They also asked them to bury the dead and do not link the matter with the visit of the Prime Minister.
“I would request the community to not associate it with some official’s visit,” said Chief Minister Khan, while a similar request was made by Ali Zaidi.
Chief Minister Khan said that law and order was the responsibility of the provincial government and he would do everything to stop such attacks and arrest the attackers.
“He (prime minister) will definitely come, the president will come, ministers and parliamentarians will come. But even if the prime minister comes, we have to solve our problems ourselves, he said.
Police have been raiding different places to arrest the attackers.
The Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM), a Shia political party, organized protests in Karachi to show solidarity with the victims of the Macch.
Rahat Begum, who lost her two sons in the massacre, said that Hazara Muslims are being targeted by sectarian and militant outfits for long and the killers are never brought to justice despite promises made by the government.
“This time we want assurance from the Prime Minister that the killers will be caught or we will not move from here, she said.
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.