Govt talks with Hazara protesters inconclusive

Updated May 01, 2018

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Jalila Haider at a hunger strike camp in Quetta on Monday.—AP
Jalila Haider at a hunger strike camp in Quetta on Monday.—AP

QUETTA: Federal Inte­rior Minister Ahsan Iqbal arrived here late Monday evening and met the protesting Hazara community members who continued their hunger strike and sit-in against targeted killings despite being assured by the Balochistan chief minister and home minister that the culprits would be arrested soon.

The interior minister went straight to the protest camp set up by the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen outside the Balochistan Assembly and held talks with a provincial minister representing the protesters, Syed Agha Raza, albeit without success.

Leading the sit-in outside the assembly building, Mr Raza and other leaders refused to end their protest until the visit of Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“We will not compromise on our demands and security. We will continue to hold the sit-in here in front of the assembly,” said Mr Raza when the interior minister said the government was making all-out efforts to stop the targeted killings and provide protection to the Hazara community along with other citizens.

Protesters demand army chief visit sit-in, hunger strike camps amid assurances of protection

However, Mr Raza said: “I cannot betray my people. If they ask me to resign from the government, I will not hesitate and quit.”

A complete shutdown was earlier observed in some parts of Quetta against the frequent killings of the Hazara community members while a protest rally was taken out by the Hazara Democratic Party led by Ahmed Ali Kohzad. Besides the sit-in outside the assembly building, a hunger strike camp was set up by the Hazara community women led by social activist Advocate Jalila Haider outside the Quetta Press Club.

The protesters demand immediate end to the targeted killing of Hazara community members, arrest of culprits and a visit of the army chief to those observing a hunger strike against the genocide of the community.

Leading the women protesters, Advocate Haider said: “We will not end our fast until the visit of the Chief of Army Staff General Javed Qamar Bajwa to the hunger strike camp.” She said the killing of Hazara people had become a matter of routine. Perhaps nobody was bothered, as no one involved in the “genocide of Hazara community” had been arrested so far by the security agencies.

During the day, Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti held talks with the HDP protesters and assured them that all-out efforts were being made to protect citizens.

Mr Bizenjo said terrorists were attempting to ignite sectarian violence in Quetta by killing innocent Hazara people. Their nefarious designs would be foiled with the help and cooperation of the people, the chief minister said, adding that security forces were conducting operations and arresting militants. “We have apprehended and killed many terrorists including suicide bombers,” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2018