Interior minister claims he will be forward protesters’ demands for justice and security to the prime minister
Thousands of protesters demanding justice and security for the Shia Hazara following the kidnapping and execution of 11 coal miners in Balochistan’s Machh area on Monday refused to end a sit-in until Prime Minister Imran Khan personally visits them and accepts their demands.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan should personally visit Quetta and address our concerns,” one of the protest leaders told journalists while staging a sit-in at the Quetta-Sibi Highway.
Claimed by the Islamic State militant group, the abduction and execution of 11 Shia Hazara coal miners is merely the latest attack on the minority community, which has been targeted in suicide bombings and isolated assaults for the past decade.
On Monday, thousands gathered with the bodies of eight of the slain, refusing to bury them until the government provides justice. “We will not end our protest until the arrest of all the assassins,” said Balochistan Shia Conference chief Agha Daud. “The latest wave of [Hazara] killings will spread to other cities, including Quetta, if decisive action is not taken,” he added.
The protesters have also demanded the resignation of the Balochistan government, refusing to negotiate an end to the protest with them. According to sources, the protesters have said that the government has failed in enforcing its writ and they will only deal with the federal government in future.
Following the provincial government’s failure to resolve the situation, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed on Monday evening reached Quetta and attempted to negotiate an end to the sit-in by joining the protesters. He said the government was willing to accept all demands of the protesters—barring the resignation of the Balochistan government. “Tonight or tomorrow morning I will inform the prime minister about the message of the protesters,” he said, and announced Rs. 2.5 million in compensation for the families of each of the slain miners.
“Each family will be given Rs. 1 million by the prime minister, as well as Rs. 1.5 million by the Balochistan chief minister,” he said, and urged leaders of the . He said that the demands of the Hazara community would be conveyed to the prime minister. He asked the Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen—who have spearheaded the protests—to form a five-to-seven members committee for a meeting with P.M. Khan in Islamabad on the situation.
Despite Rashid’s urging, the Hazara community has refused to end its sit-in, vowing to brave the harsh weather until the provincial government is ousted and a judicial probe has been launched into the tragedy.
Meanwhile, the Balochistan Police Counter-Terrorism Department has registered a case under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 against unidentified suspects at the Naseerabad Station. A case has been lodged on behalf of the Machh Station House Officer under Sections 302, 324, 147, 148, and 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code.