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Neighbor Instigating Sectarian Terrorism: Imran Khan

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Pakistan’s prime minister echoes lawmakers urging Shia Hazara to bury slain coal miners and not play into ‘conspiracy’ against country

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday claimed the government was working to prevent terror attacks such as the one in Machh, Balochistan, and urged Shia Hazara protesters to wrap up their sit-in and bury the victims “so their souls find peace.”

In a posting on Twitter four days after the attack that left 11 coalminers slain, the prime minister said he shared in the pain of the minority community. “I want to reassure the Hazara families who lost their loved ones in a brutal terrorist attack in Machh that I am cognizant of their suffering and their demands,” he said. “We are taking steps to prevent such attacks in the future and know our neighbor [India] is instigating this sectarian terrorism,” he added.

The prime minister reminded the protesters that he had stood with them in their time of suffering in the past. “I will come again very soon to offer prayers and condole with all the families personally,” he said. “I will never betray my people’s trust. Please bury your loved ones so their souls find peace,” he added.

The prime minister’s plea followed a press conference led by Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, which was also attended by Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Bukhari, and National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri.

“It is the responsibility of the government to improve the situation in the city and the province,” said the chief minister, adding that he stood in solidarity with the Hazara community and would also visit the families of the deceased individually. Claiming that the security situation of the province had “greatly improved” in recent years, he said that it was unfortunate that tragedies such as Machh still occurred.

Urging the protesters to not link a visit by the prime minister to the burials of the deceased miners, Kamal said the religious responsibility to speedily bury the deceased should be fulfilled. “Our coming here shows how serious we are taking this and owning this,” he said, adding Shia Hazara were “brethren” who the government had no issue talking with.

The Balochistan chief minister also sought to dismiss sectarian divisions, saying he had participated in several programs in Quetta’s Hazara Town over the past two years. “But the enemies of Balochistan and Pakistan did not like this. The Balochistan government is a very big stakeholder and we are making efforts to take things forward so citizens and children of this city can progress,” he said.

Foreign hands

Minister Zaidi, meanwhile, said he had spoken to the prime minister and had been assured he would visit Quetta “soon.” Reiterating Kamal’s refrain, he said the deceased should be buried and this should not be linked to a visit by the prime minister.

Admitting that “grave acts of cruelty” had been committed against the Hazara community, Zaidi alleged that an “outside hand” was involved in these crimes. “This is a well-planned conspiracy against the country,” he said, claiming he had proof of this assertion.

The press conference came a day after Zaidi and Bukhari attempted to negotiate an end to the Shia Hazara sit-in but were rebuffed by protesters who vowed that they would not leave and bury their dead until Prime Minister Imran Khan had personally visited them, condoled with the victims’ families, and assured them that the culprits would be brought to justice.

On Sunday, armed militants raided the residence of coalminers in Machh, separated the Shia Hazara from the rest, and marched them to a nearby mountain. According to police, the militants tied the hands and feet of the victims, and opened fire on them. Some reports have alleged that several had their throats slit as well. Four of the victims are reportedly in critical condition. The Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The government has announced a compensation package for the protesters, with Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announcing that the government was willing to accept all their demands apart from the dismissal of the provincial government.

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