In address, Imran Khan says he will not visit Quetta to meet Shia Hazara protesters until they bury their dead
The prime minister of a country cannot be blackmailed by anyone, P.M. Imran Khan said on Friday, as he informed the Shia Hazara protesters staging a sit-in in Quetta that he will not visit them until they have buried their dead.
For the past six days, relatives and well-wishers of the Shia Hazara community in Balochistan have been staging a sit-in at the Western Bypass in Quetta to protest the brutal massacre of 11 coalminers at Machh by the Islamic State militant group. The protesters are camped out with the bodies of the deceased and have vowed they will not bury the dead or end the protest until the prime minister personally visits them to condole and offer his assurances. The protest has provoked similar sit-ins nationwide, with all organizers demanding the premier visit Quetta.
In his address to inaugurate the Special Technology Zones Authority in Islamabad, he claimed he was aware of the pain of the Hazara community. “No other community has suffered so much in Pakistan,” he said. “I have visited them several times in the past after major terror attacks, seen the fear in their eyes,” he said, terming it part of a “conspiracy” that he had been aware of since March 2020.
“I initially informed the cabinet [of this conspiracy] and then issued public statements on it. India is trying to destabilize Pakistan and one way its doing so is by fomenting sectarian strife,” he said, adding targeted killings of Shia and Sunni ulema was meant to spread terror in the country.
“I want to praise our intelligence agencies for preventing four major terror attacks, including one outside Islamabad. Despite this, a high profile Sunni cleric was murdered in Karachi. We defeated this attempt to sow discord with great difficulty,” he claimed.
Referring to the Machh massacre, he said he had already sent his interior minister, as well as two senior cabinet members, to Quetta to meet the protesters. “I have assured them [Shia Hazara] that all their demands would be met. They would be properly compensated and looked after,” he said, noting that they were still demanding he personally visit them or they won’t bury their dead.
“I have sent them a message that we have accepted all their demands. But their demand for my visit, you cannot blackmail any country’s prime minister like this,” he said. “A country’s P.M. could then be blackmailed by everyone. We’re already facing blackmail from the band of thieves [opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement],” he added.
“It is strange that despite us accepting their demands” they keep asking for me to visit them before they bury the dead, he said. “I’m saying it again, if you bury them today, I will go today to meet them [mourners]. This should be clear. We have accepted all your demands but you can’t impose a condition that I can’t understand that burials will only happen once the P.M. comes,” he said. “If you bury them today, I guarantee I will reach Quetta today,” he added.
During his address, the prime minister also praised the establishment of the Special Technology Zones Authority, calling it an overdue development. “The global revolution is coming through information technology,” he said, adding that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the companies that gained the most were all I.T. companies. “We have been left behind. We should have given these incentives to our I.T. sector much earlier,” he said, and vowed to remove all hurdles to development of the I.T. sector. “The point of such technology zones is to provide all possible incentives to the I.T. sector so it can progress, generate employment for youth, and increase I.T. exports to boost foreign exchange reserves,” he added.