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Matters muddle as sit-in goes on in Quetta

Top Story

January 8, 2021

ISLAMABAD/QUETTA/LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting of federal ministers and party leaders on Thursday in which Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed gave a comprehensive briefing.

According to the sources, the meeting deliberated on the situation and recommended a proposal for payment of compensation to the families of victims.

It was decided that the affected families would be compensated according to the government rules and regulations.

The meeting could not decide on the prime minister’s visit to Quetta to meet with the bereaved families. The prime minister directed the interior minister to ensure that such incidents never occurred in future.

It was also decided that a special mechanism would be devised for the security of Hazara community.

Meanwhile, protests have spread to other cities in Pakistan, including the economic powerhouse of Karachi. Police said on Thursday there were sit-ins in at least 19 locations in the sprawling southern metropolis.

Flights were delayed because access to the airport had been affected.

Prime Minister Imran Khan made an appeal to the protesters to bury the bodies of their loved ones and promised he would visit them “very soon” and that steps were being taken to prevent such attacks in the future.

A large number of protesters have been staging a sit-in since Sunday, refusing to bury the bodies of the victims, as they braved biting cold temperatures. They vowed they would not budge until Prime Minister Khan pays them a visit.

Khan had dispatched Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, followed by maritime minister Ali Zaidi and PM’s aide Zulfi Bukhari, who were unable to placate the demonstrators.

In a tweet, the prime minister said: “I will never betray my people’s trust. Please bury your loved ones so their souls find peace.”

“I share your pain,” the prime minister said, telling the community that he had visited them in the past as well to stand by them in their time of suffering.

“I will come again very soon to offer prayers and condole with all the families personally,” he promised.

He assured the Hazara families that he was cognizant of their suffering and their demands.

“The government is taking steps to prevent such attacks in the future knowing that our neighbour is instigating this sectarian terrorism,” the prime minister said referring to Indian intervention and sponsoring of terror activities in Pakistan, particularly Balochistan.

Meanwhile, Federal Information Minister Shibli Faraz Thursday said the prime minister will visit Quetta to condole with the bereaved families.

Speaking to media, he said negotiations were underway with the protestors to end the sit-ins, adding whatever transpired in the Machh incident was beyond words.

These incidents have taken place in the past as well and the perpetrators behind must meet their due fate, he said adding, that some elements were always trying to create complications.

“We have listened to the demands put up by the protestors none of which, he said, were unreasonable. The compensation money as announced will be soon disbursed among the victim families,” Shibli Faraz said.

The federal minister remarked that it was not the right time or the right event to do politics over and said the country could not be transformed into Sweden in two years with all its issues addressed.

Meanwhile, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz appealed the affected families to bury their loved ones.

Talking to the media in Lahore before departing for Quetta, she said first of all she wanted to say that the incident was very heart shaking and terrible.

“Hazara community has been facing terrorism for the past several years and the recent killing of miners is very tragic,” she said, adding that the families of the deceased were protesting with the dead bodies for the last five days but the selected prime minister had no courage to go there.

“I know that their wounds could not be healed but the state’s role is like a mother while the prime minister is like the father. I don’t want to politicize the incident because this is a national tragedy and the entire nation is feeling sad for them.” She maintained.

Pointing towards Imran Khan, she said he was given the seat of prime minister but he did not bother to go to the protest camp of Hazara community to console them.

“You are sending your ministers and advisors to the aggrieved families due to which the issue is being complicated,” she added.

Maryam said despite the fact she had not been given security clearance, she had decided to go to Quetta and request the aggrieved families to bury the deceased.

She said the duty of a leader was to stand by the nation in a difficult time but the selected was hiding due to his inner fears. She urged Imran Khan to go there by putting his fears aside.

Answering a question about what is the message of Nawaz Sharif regarding the incident, Maryam said that he has directed her to go to Quetta.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari deplored the state's failure to implement the National Action Plan for deterrence of such crimes and how every time one comes to visit the community, it is because such an incident has occurred.

"Pakistan is a country where even the bodies of our deceased loved ones have to protest (for their rights). We live in a land where everything is expensive — gas, electricity and food — but the blood of our labourers comes cheap," said the PPP chairman.

Bilawal said that since 1999, 2,000 Hazaras had died "but not even one family was provided justice".

He recalled a past occasion where a protest by the community with 100 bodies took place.

"Our government folded and then a new government came. And now again, another government has come and again you are protesting. And you have only one demand: that you be allowed to live."

He said that this sole demand was echoing across Pakistan on the streets of Karachi, Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and all the supporters and well-wishers of Hazara continue to stand by them.

"I can only promise you, that I, too, belong to a family of martyrs. We, too, have been unable to get justice. I promise you, the way we work day and night to ask for justice, you too are our brethren [...] till the day I die, and till I continue to serve the people, it will be my effort to (secure the lives of all our people)."

Meanwhile, in a meeting to review the law and order situation in the province, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan said terrorists involved in the Machh tragedy would be brought to justice for maintaining enduring peace in the province.

Kamal said the incident in Machh was unfortunate and the government would not abandon the affected and stand by them in difficult times.

He said it was the responsibility of government to protect public lives and their property and the government was taking all possible measures to arrest elements involved in Machh incident.