August 29th, 2021
By Umar Bacha
Sarah, the oldest among six siblings, has a gifted intellect. Regularly scoring top of class, the young girl hailing from a remote village in Shangla, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, harbored dreams of becoming someone important someday. But everything shattered when the architect of her dreams, her father Hidayat-ur-Rehman, was murdered in cold blood by extortionists in Marwar, Balochistan on the night of August 23.
According to accounts, Hidayat-ur-Rehman was idling at a small shop near a coal mine when unidentified assailants suddenly opened fire on him.
“There were Frontier Corps checkposts within 200 feet on either side of us, yet somehow the assailants were able to bypass them, shoot the mine manager and flee,” Khan Bacha, an eye-witness and Hidayat-ur-Rehman’s cousin, told Voicepk.net. The next morning, Bacha and some others went to the camp to alert the FC personnel stationed there.
“We told them to bring a doctor as our men had been shot… but we were told that they are not permitted to leave the camp.”
A total of three miners, including two originally from Shangla, were gunned down that night. None of the victims received any threats prior to their murder.
“He had been working in coal mines in Balochistan since 2002,” related Hidayatullah, Hidayat-ur-Rehman’s brother. “We do not know who [the extortionists] are. They collect from the company and contractors there, and when they do not get paid, they take it out on our people laboring in the mines.”
Upon receiving the bodies of the two deceased from Marwar, large swathes of Shangla residents blocked the Besham-Swat Road in protest and demanded the Balochistan Government ensure the swift arrest of the culprits.
“These labourers are our colleagues who toil in these mines and come back hurt, disabled or dead. But their murders are an injustice against the people of Shangla,” stated Gulab Shahpuri, President of the Shangla Mine Workers Association (SAMWA). He called on the Balochistan Government for a judicial inquiry into this most recent incident. “If an inquiry cannot take place, then the Supreme Court should take suo motu action. We want to know why our people are being murdered… is their blood that cheap?”
Family members and relatives of the deceased in Kaho Mayar have termed the incident the height of cruelty.
“Hidayat-ur-Rehman earned an honest living for the sake of his children, wife and parents,” another cousin of the deceased labourer said. “Despite the presence of government institutions, extortionists run the place. [Hidayat-ur-Rehman] was killed for extortion money… he was never warned at any point.”
In the past month alone, three bodies have been brought back from Balochistan, all of them violently murdered.
“We demand that the Balochistan Government should mandate mine owners to station private security guards at the mines per official policy, the same as banks and schools,” asserted Ali Bhash, senior Vice-President of the Coal Mines Workers Association Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Speakers at the Shangla protest rally demanded that the Balochistan Government compensate the families of the slain Shangla coal miners as it had relatives of the eleven Hazara coal miners murdered by ISIS militants on January 3, 2021, as well as establish a fund to pay for the victims’ orphaned children’s schooling.
Addressing the protest, the speakers demanded the Balochistan government to compensate the Hazara community for their families as per the compensation given to them last year and to bear the educational expenses of the orphans.