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Wednesday December 01, 2021

Hazara sit-in: Top civilian, military leaders visited protest camps in past

January 11, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The tormented Hazara community’s key demand – that the prime minister should visit the mourners or they would not bury their dead – was a position it had always taken whenever confronted with such massive tragedies in the past.

The top civilian and military leadership had previously accepted this demand to console, condole and sympathise with the grieving people. The mourners had always ended their protest after the visits of such high-profile figures.

However, Prime Minister Imran Khan has broken with this tradition. In a speech on Friday, he made it clear that he would immediately be among the mourners but only after the burial rites of the deceased coal miners slaughtered in the Mach carnage had been performed.

In May 2018, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had met the agitating Hazara community in an effort to end their protest sit-in, which had been organised on the issue of the unabated target killing of its members in Quetta. Besides others, the army chief was also accompanied by the then Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal. Along with the sit-in outside the Balochistan Assembly, a hunger strike had also been staged by Hazara community women in Quetta. The Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, which is among the sponsors of the ongoing protest, was also behind the previous agitation.

A day before the army chief’s visit, the interior minister had gone to the protest camp and had held talks with Balochistan Minister Syed Agha Raza, who was then leading the agitation against the killings. However, the protesters had refused to end the sit-in until the army chief visited them.

On this occasion, Sheikh Rashid played his role as the interior minister, and got a similar response from the beleaguered people as that of Ahsan Iqbal. The mission of two cabinet members --Ali Zaidi and Zulfi Bokhari-- undertaken on the premier’s direction met the same fate. However, on Friday night they along with Balochistan CM succeeded to convince the protesters to end the sit-in.

In the past, the mourners had always rejected the attempts and pleas of the Balochistan government to end their protest.

In January 2013, the then prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, had dashed to Quetta to meet the Hazara mourners in an attempt to end their protest following a horrifying massacre. Only then did the aggrieved heirs start burying the 96 people killed three days earlier in deadly attacks.

The premier had met the leaders of the Hazara community in a mosque near the site of the twin bombings and assured them that he would dismiss the Balochistan chief minister and cabinet. In response, the agitators had called off their three-day-long protest sit-in.

The Hazara community had held vigils by the coffins of their loved ones on Quetta's streets, and demanded the removal of the provincial government.

When the Balochistan government was sacked and governor’s rule imposed amidst countrywide protests following the consecutive bombings targeting the Hazaras, the action had been welcomed by thousands of Hazara community members.

Earlier, the opposition leaders -- including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Vice President Maryam Nawaz, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) stalwart Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and several others have visited the Hazara community’s sit-in that was ended on Friday night.