Eleven coal miners from Pakistan’s Shia Hazara minority were brutally killed in a sectarian attack on Sunday, January 3.
The latest atrocities against an oppressed minority sparked protests in Quetta and Karachi, while the miners’ families refused to bury their bodies for a whole week. They demanded Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to meet with them and end Islamabad’s indifference to widespread violence against Hazara.
In demonstrations of pent-up frustration and anger, Hazara protesters in Quetta keep the miners’ coffins on the highway despite the tradition of Muslim burials within 24 hours. After a week of continuous protests amid freezing temperatures, the miners’ funeral was held on Saturday after Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed to meet with the protesters on the same day.
The heinous crimes occurred in Mach, a mining town about 30 miles southeast of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. In the early hours of January 3, armed men woke up the miners who were sleeping in the common residence near the coal mine, identified and separated the Hazara Shia workers among them, closed their eyes and tied their hands and feet, then slit their throats and shoot them. Six people died at the scene, while others died before they could reach the local hospital.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the savage attack, which was aimed at terrorizing the Hazara Shiite community and intimidating other minorities in Pakistan.
However, they were not the only perpetrators. If sectarian attacks on minorities, some of whom have claimed the lives of tens, if not hundreds, of people including women and children, are a regular occurrence in Pakistan, it is due to the long-standing promotion of communal hostility and Islamist reactions by the country’s venal. the ruling elite. Moreover, it is closely linked to Pakistan’s reactionary partnership with US imperialism.
The Hazara people are a poor and persecuted minority in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Balochistan, due to repeated deadly attacks, they were forced to live in two fortified ghettos in Quetta.
The killings of the miners are thought to be an occasion for regular criticism of Islamic terrorism by political institutions in Islamabad. Khan condemned it as “an inhuman act of cowardly terrorism,” in a Twitter message. Balochistan’s Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan received many angry complaints after he posted a harshly crafted message of only a few words condemning the incident but denying responsibility for the country’s failure to protect Hazara. Many of those who responded demanded that he step down.
On Friday, as protesters continued to block the highway and refused to bury their bodies, Imran Khan issued a stern warning to protesters not to “blackmail” him.
Responding to Khan’s arrogant remarks, Amna Bibi, who lost her son and brother in the attack, told Al Jazeera, “We just called him to come here and see the bodies of our martyrs so he can understand that every year we have more. martyr. That’s the only reason. Since we chose it, it’s our right, “
When Khan arrived in Quetta on Saturday, family members and community leaders complained to him about their precarious existence, living under the threat of constant attacks. “This time you will see that it is different,” Khan assured them. He promised his government would “look after” affected families and provide security to the community.
Those who were responsible for the previous attacks faced almost no consequences. In this case, as in many other cases, no arrests were made. In May 2018, Army Commander General Qamar Javed Bajwa promised increased security for Hazara in Quetta. Bajwa tried to defuse the protests which continued for five consecutive days after a series of targeted killings in Hazara. However, neither the targeted assassinations, nor the large scale attacks did not stop. In April 2019, for example, 20 people were killed and 48 injured in Quetta in a bomb attack targeting Hazara.
The leaders of the two main opposition parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), also issued pro forma condemnation of the miners’ killing. In addition, they exploited Khan’s “blackmail” statements to claim that the government led by his party would be different. In fact, the PPP and PLM-N are longtime representatives of the Pakistani bourgeoisie, having served for several periods before Khan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) came to power in 2018. They have a long track record of promoting and plotting with the communist forces and are staunch supporters a partnership between the military and Washington, and thus share responsibility for the plight of Hazara and other minorities in the country.
A report by the National Commission on Human Rights in Pakistan in 2018 revealed that 509 Hazaras were killed and 627 injured in sectarian attacks between January 2012 and December 2017. The PML-N and PPP’s new concerns for Hazara can only be understood in the context of their continued efforts to coerce Khan resigned and called new elections.
Khan himself is a right-wing Islamist. He has been a supporter of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws and supported the disenfranchisement of several million of the powerful Ahmadiyya religious minority. Immediately after taking office, her government bowed to violent protests led by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) against the cancellation of the death sentence imposed on Asia Bibi, a poor Catholic woman, for blasphemy. The government appealed the ruling to the country’s highest court.
The TLP, tacitly supported by the military, managed to secure the resignation of PML-N’s previous Minister of Law and Justice, Zahid Hamid, after he attempted to change the religious oaths taken by election candidates.
Balochistan was occupied by the military as part of the brutal repression of the separatist nationalist Balochi militia. Any opposition to his domination was met with enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings. However, Islamic fundamentalists have been able to carry out attacks, including in Quetta.
English that is widely read every day Dawn in his editorial on January 5 observed that “the country has long abandoned” the Shia Hazara. Seeking to explain their plight, the editorial noted, “In a cynical calculated move, that is [the state] decided to turn a blind eye to the brutal extremist humiliation against [Hazara] communities in the province during this group of assassins were also tasked with fighting the Baloch rebellion that started during [General Pervez] Musharraf regime. “
While Dawn forced to acknowledge Islamabad’s criminal indifference to the plight of Shia Hazara and equally criminal security policies, the editorial remains to cover Islamabad’s primary responsibility for rampant sectarian violence in the country. This process cannot be separated from its reactionary partnership with US imperialism.
On Sunday, Khan sought to shift responsibility for attacks on the miners from Pakistan’s elite and promote sectarianism and an Islamic reaction. Instead, he blamed Pakistan’s arch rival, India. Driven by a deepening “global strategic partnership” with Washington, New Delhi has increased military pressure on Pakistan in recent years, including a twofold increase in provocative “surgical strikes” inside Pakistan.
Khan said that the “opinion” of his government and the Pakistani security agency was that “India supports” ISIS. He claims to have received intelligence since last March indicating that India wants to “foment sectarianism” in Pakistan.
The Pakistani bourgeoisie has always sought to gain financial gain and geopolitical influence by serving imperialist interests, while at the same time encouraging communalism and religious fundamentalism to divert popular anger over its inability to meet the basic needs of the working and hardworking classes down reactionary channels. This pedigree has its roots in the creation of Pakistan in 1947 as a Muslim country explicitly through the communal division of South Asia.
The emergence of the US-backed dictator Zia-ul-Haq in 1977 marked a turning point, when he turned politics sharply to the right during the 1980s under a policy of “Islamization” and, at Washington’s behest, expanded logistics and political support for the Islamic Mujahideen in Afghanistan. This right turn rests on the foundation laid by the PPP administration Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Its 1973 constitution has made significant concessions to religious rights, such as declaring the Ahmadiyya non-Muslim, making the Muslim Sabbath a holiday, and banning alcohol.
The slave tool of US imperialism, Zia made Pakistan the key to Washington and Riyadh’s efforts to nurture and arm the Mujahideen against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan. This not only resulted in the spawning of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but also, under Islamabad’s patronage, in the growing network of Islamic fundamentalist militias in Pakistan, which were then used as pawns in geo-political maneuvers and to propel politics. far to the right. Islamists served as a bulwark against opposition workers to privatization and other pro-market reforms, and they were mobilized to attack women’s rights and push for violent anti-minority “blasphemy” laws.
The US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan that began in October 2001, coincided with Pakistan’s launch of the semi-autonomous Federal Tribal Territory (FATA) along the northwestern border with Afghanistan, had an explosive impact on simmering sectarian tensions. Like the US and its allies in Afghanistan, the Pakistani state uses carpet bombing, colonial-style collective punishment, kidnapping and extra-judicial killings to suppress pro-Taliban elements, while US forces terrorize the FATA people with its own Predator drones. war.
Islamic fundamentalists seek revenge by surrendering their weapons to minorities, especially Hazara Shia and Christians. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan emerged in FATA as a product of this war and continues to battle the Pakistani military to this day. It has increased some of the bloodiest attacks against minorities.
Sectarian tensions in Balochistan escalated as its significant geo-strategic interests were boosted by the launch of the US $ 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, centered around the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar. Balochi nationalist militants, oriented towards gaining support from US imperialism and the Indian bourgeoisie for their reactionary struggle to create a separate Balochi state, also launched violent attacks on Pashtun workers and other non-Balochi residents of Balochistan.
Killed Hazara workers shared a brutal work regime with tens of thousands of miners and equally oppressed workers across Balochistan. Mach alone is estimated to be home to 10,000 to 20,000 mine workers, including many children forced to work in the mines because of severe poverty. According to February 2020 Guardian reported that an adult worker earns about US $ 6.75 a day while a child earns only US $ 2.50. The mine is notorious for security breaches. One hundred to two hundred miners die in accidents across Pakistan each year.
Islamabad: Members of Pakistan’s Shia Hazara minority community ended their protests on Saturday and buried the bodies of 11 coal miners killed by ISIS terrorists after Prime Minister Imran Khan assured him he would visit them soon.
Miners from the Shia Hazara community were shot dead after being kidnapped by ISIS terrorists last Sunday in the Mach area of restive Balochistan province.
Following the incident, their relatives and hundreds of other community members sat in protest along with the coffins bearing the bodies of the victims in the West Bypass area of the provincial capital Quetta amid the harsh cold, insisting that they would bury the dead only when the prime minister personally visited. them to ensure protection.
However, Khan on Friday caused controversy by saying that he would not be blackmailed and visited only if the dead were buried.
Khan’s remarks drew sharp criticism from across the country, sparked a rush of official activities to convince families to conduct burial rites and put an end to the controversy caused by his callous remarks.
Officials said the stalemate ended after Balochistan’s top minister Jam Kamal Khan visited the protesters for the second time and accepted their demands and informed them of the prime minister’s plans to visit them soon.
The announcement to end the sit-in protest was made by the Shuhada Action Committee and representatives of Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen, a Shia political party.
All our demands have been accepted… The family has decided to bury their martyrs, a member of the Hazara Shuhada Committee told reporters in Quetta after midnight talks between protesters and senior government officials.
Under the agreement, the government will crack down on those responsible for negligence in the Machh incident. A high-level commission, chaired by the provincial interior minister, has been formed to investigate.
The Balochistan government will also pay compensation of Rs 15 lakh to each victim’s family and also provide work for family members.
However, sources said the main reason the protesters ended their sit-in was because they were told that the Commander of the Army, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, was expected to visit Quetta on Saturday.
This is not the first time the Hazara people have been targeted by extremist groups in Balochistan. In recent years, hundreds of Hazara people have been killed in suicide bomb attacks, planted bomb blasts or targeted assassinations.
Hazaras are disproportionately targeted for sectarian violence because they are easily identifiable because of their distinctive physical appearance.
Balochistan has seen violence against Hazara people for more than a decade and a half by militants who regard them as heretics.
The Hazara tribe is part of the Shia community living in Balochistan and Afghanistan. They are frequently targeted by Sunni militants.
The province has been in trouble for some time with terrorists and militants from sectarian and separatist groups operating in the province and carrying out attacks on security forces, installations, members of the Shia Hazara community or even workers / workers from other provinces.
At least five motorbikes were set on fire on Friday reportedly after passengers clashed with protesters in the Shia community near Drigh Street, Sharea Faisal in Karachi.
The nationwide protests that started three days ago express solidarity with the families of the 11 Hazara communities miners in Machh, Balochistan last week, has spread to more than 15 different places in Karachi.
The roadblocks imposed due to the protests have resulted in congestion across the city at rush hour. However, traffic was diverted from the affected road to an alternative route.
The Shia Ulama Council, Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, the Imamia Student Organization along with other members of the Shia community, have performed sit-in action in various places Karachi, to express solidarity with the mining family.
The sit-in was held at Numaish Chowrangi, Nipa Chowrangi, University Road near Safari Park, Abul Hassan Isphani Street, Kamran Chowrangi, Natha Khan Bridge, Quaidabad, Shah Faisal Colony, Chowrangi Power House, Khuda ki Basti, Nazimabad no.1 and other locations .
The long queue got stuck on University Street, MA Jinnah Street, Sharea Faisal and National Highway. The two lines of Jalan Abul Hassan Isphahani have also remained closed to traffic.
“They [the miners’ families] The only demand is for Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit them, mourn the death of their beloved family member and provide assurance that the perpetrators of the attack will be caught and punished at the earliest, “said one of the protesters.
The protesters claimed the involvement of international organizations in the attack and stated that such incidents would continue unless there was no action against the foreign elements who carried out the brutality.
Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai on Thursday urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit Quetta and meet the family of coal miners slaughtered by terrorists in Machh five days ago.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner and Oxford graduate, in a message on Twitter, said: “I am short of words to express my grief over the brutal killing of the Hazara miners. This is not the first time this has happened. But I hope it will be the last. “
He said that the entire country was mourning the tragedy.
The prime minister, in a message he tweeted four days after the incident, told members of the Hazara community that he stood with them while they were suffering and assured them he would visit “soon”, meanwhile asking them to bury their loved ones.
The deceased’s heirs have staged protests for five consecutive days and refuse to bury the slain coal miners until the prime minister visits them.
Malala responded to this, saying: “I request that PM @ImranKhanPTI meet with the victims’ families as soon as possible.”
Bilawal, Maryam visited mourners at the protest camp
Earlier in the day, PPP Chair Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz visited the protesters to express solidarity with them and pledged to do whatever their party could do to ease their grief.
“Pakistan is a country where even the bodies of our loved ones have to protest (for their rights). We live in land where everything is expensive – gas, electricity and food – but the blood of our workers is cheap,” said the PPP chairman.
Maryam, meanwhile, said: “I asked Imran Khan, the bodies that are here, is your ego bigger than this?”
He asked her if she didn’t come out for fear of criticism. “Then why? Come here and listen to the criticisms for a moment […] but it is your duty to come here and share in their sorrows. “
The vice president of PML-N said that the community did not ask for anything out of the ordinary. She regrets that she heard someone say they would wait 100 days if that’s what it takes.
He said he also heard how mercury fell as low as -8 degrees and these people were sitting in the open and waiting for the prime minister to come.
“I regret the helplessness of the man in the seat of power. You called him and he didn’t have time to come.”
Ten transport vessels were killed and four others seriously injured on Sunday after gunmen attacked them in a coal field in Bolan district, Balochistan.
The coal miners, according to police, were taken to a nearby mountain where they were shot.
Based on AFPThe 10 miners were kidnapped before dawn Sunday as they slept near a remote coal mine in the mountainous southwestern area of Machh – 60 kilometers southeast of the city of Quetta, said local government official Abid Saleem.
The security guard, who requested anonymity, was notified AFP the attackers first separated the miners before tying their hands and feet and leading them to the hills to kill them. Most were shot, but some were beheaded, said the official, who did not want to be identified.
Officials on Monday clarified ten people had died in the attack, revised the previous death toll to 11, AFP reported.
The Daesh militant group claimed the attack, according to SITE Intelligence, which monitors militant activity around the world.