THERE is nation-wide solidarity and sympathy for members of the Hazara community in Balochistan who have repeatedly been targeted in the past and forced them to agitate the killing of 11-coal miners (Hazaras) in Machh area of Bolan district. Hundreds of Hazaras have since been encamped; along with the victims’ bodies, on western bypass in Quetta’s subzero temperature to protest the gruesome methodical mass-killing.
It is understood that no amount of consolation can undo the damage done due to targeted killing of innocent souls but the protestors are demanding firm assurances against repetition of such dastardly acts and it is fundamental duty and responsibility of the state to make every possible effort to secure their lives and properties. Verbal requests have been issued to the members of Hazara community to end the protest and bury the victims but protestors say they would do so only after a visit by the Prime Minister. A high level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan deliberated on the incident and the situation arising out of protests where Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmad gave a comprehensive briefing but unfortunately no substantial decision was taken. Though, according to media reports, the meeting decided on payment of compensation according to the Government rules and regulations and the Prime Minister also directed the Interior Minister to ensure foolproof security for Hazaras but nothing concrete has been conveyed to the protestors. One fails to understand what is preventing a visit by the Prime Minister if this is the only hurdle in the way of ending vows of the families of the victims and all those who are protesting on highways. There are, of course, security issues but this would be a lame excuse if seen in the backdrop of visits by prominent politicians including Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto. The meeting that the Prime Minister convened on Thursday should have been called much earlier to devise an appropriate response and strategy. It is because of the apathy of the government and growing concern about sufferings of the protestors in the harsh winter that protests have now spread to other cities including Karachi. Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, on Thursday, took some decisions including formation of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the massacre and ordered removal of Deputy Commissioner (DC) Kachhi as well as the District Police Officer (DPO) for their negligence which led to the Machh massacre five days ago. However, it is not for the first time that such an ugly situation arose as in the past as well members of Hazara community were killed in a targeted manner but the state failed to take effective steps to provide required security to them. In this case, Daish, which has its presence in neighbouring areas of Afghanistan, has claimed responsibility, which speaks volumes about threat of terrorism and those behind the conspiracy to keep Balochistan boiling. There is no doubt that the defence forces and law-enforcing agencies have done a commendable job in dealing with the threat of terrorism in the province but the latest incident substantiates apprehensions that the threat is not over. If investigations also confirm the claim of Daish, then Pakistani authorities should not only take up the issue vigorously with the Afghan Government but also raise it at all available global forums. There are reasons to believe that India might be behind such high profile terrorist acts as it is on record having declared its intentions to sabotage China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an initiative which is more focused in Balochistan. It seems the enemy wants to create a sense of insecurity and instil fear among investors to deprive the people of Balochistan of the benefits of CPEC. It is encouraging that both Pakistan and China are committed to pursuing all projects under the umbrella of CPEC but it is the duty of each and every citizen of the country to be vigilant and extend a helping hand to the Government in addressing the challenge thrown by the enemy. As for provision of security to Hazaras, hectic consultations should be held with the leaders of the community to solicit suggestions on what could be done to provide them security and safeguard their rights. Either special security arrangements should be made for them or the possibility of their relocation or rehabilitation in other comparatively safer areas may be considered.