MOURNERS from the Shia Hazara community react as they hold a sit-in near Quetta on Monday along with the coffins of the coal miners who were killed in the Mach area on Sunday.—AFP
MOURNERS from the Shia Hazara community react as they hold a sit-in near Quetta on Monday along with the coffins of the coal miners who were killed in the Mach area on Sunday.—AFP

QUETTA: While refusing to bury their loved ones, thousands of protesters continued their sit-in on the second consecutive day on Monday in the western bypass area along with the coffins against the government over the brutal killing of 11 coal miners in Mach, demanding the arrest of the attackers.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who arrived in Quetta on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s instructions, held negotiations with the grieving community. He told them that the government was ready to accept all their demands except the one seeking the resignation of the provincial government and urged them to call off their protest so that the bodies could be laid to rest.

The Hazara community, however, did not accede to his call. Despite extremely harsh weather as the mercury dropped to minus 8 degrees Celsius in Quetta, the mourners, including women and children, refused to leave the western bypass area close to Hazara town and call off the protest, demanding ouster of the government and a judicial probe into the tragedy.

“No male member is alive in our family who could bury my elder brother and four other relatives,” said Masooma Yaqoob Ali, a student of third year who lost five members of her family in the tragedy.

Among her five siblings, she said, her brother was the only son of her parents and the sole breadwinner of the family.

Sheikh Rashid assured the protesting community that the elements involved in the gruesome act would be brought to justice.

Talking to reporters after holding negotiations with the representatives of the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM), the minister announced that Rs2.5 million would be paid to each victim family as compensation.

Sheikh Rashid condemned the incident and said: “I feel very sorry over the happening of Mach carnage.”

He said that the demands of the Hazara community would be conveyed to the prime minister. He asked the MWM leaders to form a five or seven members committee for a meeting with the prime minister in Islamabad.

According to official sources, the bodies of two coal miners were sent to Afghanistan.

“The family members have taken away the two bodies for their burial in their native town in Afghanistan,” said an MWM leader.

While the Hazara Jirga and leaders of Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) had decided the burial of the victims would take place on Monday, the leaders of MWM and heirs of the deceased disallowed the burial.

The representatives of MWM, HDP and Balochistan Shia Conference were present along with members of the Hazara community at the site of protest.

Balochistan MWM president Syed Agha Raza, who was leading the protesters, announced the bodies would not be buried until demands of the community were met. “We have staged a sit-in for the protection of the Hazara people who have been facing such killings since long and have become fed up with the situation,” Agha Raza said.

He said the Balochistan government should resign as it had repeatedly failed to protect the people of Hazara community. “We will continue the sit-in till the resignation of the provincial government,” he said, adding that a judicial commission comprising retired and sitting judges of the apex court should be appointed for conducting a judicial inquiry into the incident.

He said the sit-in would continue till the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan for negotiation so that practical steps be taken for the arrest of the killers.

Provincial ministers Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi and Noor Mohammad Dummar and Deputy Commissioner Aurangzeb Badini also held talks with the MWM leaders. However, the negotiation remained unsuccessful as the protesting leaders refused to call off their sit-in until the visit of PM Khan for talks.

Meanwhile, counter-terrorism department of police (CTD) launched investigation into the incident after registering a case against unknown militants on Monday for the killing of the 11 coal miners. Official sources said the case was registered at the Nasirabad police station on a complaint of Mach Police SHO Pir Bakhsh Bugti under Sections 302 and 324 Pakistan Penal Code and relevant sections of Anti-Terrorism Act.

Ali Jan Mangi in Dera Murad Jamali also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2021

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