January 8th, 2021
By Asim Ahmed Khan
The Hazara Shia community’s protest against the killing of at least ten Hazara coalminers in Macch has entered its sixth day. Survivors, kin of the deceased, and community members are braving sub-zero temperatures with the dead laid out on the Western Bypass highway. They have categorically refused to end protests or bury the victims of Sunday’s terror attack, unless their demands are met.
Among calls for the immediate arrest of the killers and the removal of the Balochistan government, the aggrieved have called upon Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit and help them perform the funeral rites of the slain Hazara Shia coalminers.
However, protesters feel they have been let down and abandoned over accusations of ‘blackmail’ by the Prime Minister himself. Furthermore, Prime Minister Khan has stated that he will not visit the demonstrators until they bury the bodies.
“How can such an oppressed community blackmail the prime minister of this country?” asks Shahida Batool, a family member of one of the slain miners. “We have been sitting here for days in sub-zero temperatures and the Prime Minister is calling it to blackmail. He should be ashamed of his pettiness,” continues an infuriated Shahida.
Khadija a relative of another slain miner has similar things to say to the Prime Minister. According to her, the prime minister has humiliated the Hazara community through his behavior.
Hazara lawyer and rights activist Jalila Haider, who launched a hunger strike camp to protest terror attacks against her community in 2018, expressed deep regret over the Prime Minister’s statement.
“When I first went on a hunger strike in 2018, my democrat friends were outraged as to why I had called on General Bajwa to visit the camp. I had to tell them that our military is more aware of what is happening in Balochistan. People like Imran Khan are merely pawns,” she stated.
She recalled that when the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited their protest camp in 2018, he assured them that such incidents will not happen again.
“It is regrettable that even his word could barely last a year, but the latest attack indicates that even he is powerless. Terrorists and “na maloom afraad” ( a term referred to unidentified people from the intelligence agencies) are ruling Pakistan and are powerful now. This is out of everyone’s hands, and this incident has exposed it.”
Haider wondered if the Premiere was refusing to visit the aggrieved Machh massacre protesters because he cannot bear to face them or that he is much too arrogant.
The Machh massacre has prompted worldwide condemnation of the anti-Shia militant group, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (an offshoot of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and a proxy outfit for the Islamic State). Civil society activists and members of the Shia community staged country-wide protests against the incident, with the latter alluding to continued sit-ins if the safety of religious minorities is not ensured.
So far, the federal government has held five rounds of talks with the protesters but all have failed. The protestors continue to demonstrate with the dead bodies of their loved ones, braving extremely cold temperatures waiting for Prime Minister Imran Khan to thaw the ice.