P.M. Khan assures Shia Hazara victims’ families that they will not be abandoned by the government
The Shia Hazara community, as well as several political parties and activists, on Sunday took to the streets to protest the massacre of 11 coal miners in Balochistan’s Bolan district, blocking several major thoroughfares in provincial capital Quetta.
On Sunday morning, 11 coal miners were shot dead, and four others seriously injured, after armed men stormed the Machh coalfield. According to police, the terrorists entered the rooms where the miners were living, forced them to march to nearby mountains, tied their hands and feet together, and opened fire on them.
An official of the paramilitary Levies Force claimed the attackers had specifically identified members of the Hazara community, separating them from others, who were left unharmed. The bodies of the deceased were later shifted to Hazara Town near Quetta. Reuters has claimed that the Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but this has yet to be independently verified.
In their protest at Quetta’s Western Bypass, the Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) demanded the Balochistan government either arrest the people responsible for the Machh massacre or resign. The political organization’s leader, Syed Muhammad Agha Raza, said Prime Minister Imran Khan should personally visit Quetta to condole with the bereaved families of the victims. The MWM was also jointed by members of the Hazara community, who demanded the government ensure protection for their people.
As reports of the massacre emerged, the Balochistan government sought to dismiss allegations of security lapses. Spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani told local media that the law and order situation in the area “was satisfactory” and the attack had been “unexpected.” He said the government was assessing the situation, and would, if needed, increase security in the area.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal also took notice of the Machh massacre, expressing sorrow over the loss of life and seeking a report from the authorities concerned. He ordered authorities to ensure those responsible were placed under arrest, adding that the elements involved in such terrorist incidents would be brought to justice.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a posting on Twitter, condemned the “cowardly inhumane act of terrorism.” He said he had advised the Frontier Corps personnel deployed in the region “to use all resources to apprehend these killers and bring them to justice.” He also assured the families of the victims that they would “not be left abandoned by the government.”
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari blamed “Indian-funded terrorists” for the attack. She said extremists were becoming “more desperate” due to the recent efforts to boost development in the region. “Socioeconomic empowerment and Insaf (justice) for the Baloch are how we will defeat the terrorists,” she said in a posting on Twitter.
The beleaguered Shia Hazara community of Balochistan is no stranger to tragedy. In January 2013, at least 115 people were killed and over 250 others injured after bombings at Quetta’s Alamdar Road. A month later, over 70 were killed after a bombing in Hazara Town.
In recent months, there has been a marked increase in cases of targeted killings, with activists and locals reporting attacks on security forces and members of the minority community in Mastung, Noshki, Taftan, and Ziarat.