Shia Muslims protest latest killings and demand protection from attacks by Islamic militants
Kamran Chaudhry, Lahore
January 11, 2021
Blindfolded female protesters at the sit-in by the Hazara community in Quetta. (Photo supplied)
When Tahir Khan visited a Quetta highway blocked with the bodies of 11 slain coal miners, he was greeted by women wearing white blindfolds.
“All of them were family members of the victims enduring a freezing temperature of minus nine. They denied being blackmailers and even tied their hands to prove they are harmless. They only appealed for a visit by Prime Minister Imran Khan to share their pain and ensure the future safety of our community,” the leader of Hazara political workers told UCA News.
“Many still carry the Quran on their heads cursing the killers and planners of the tragedy. Our graveyards are full. The visit of the premier is of no significance. We have met many ministers in the past.”
He referred to a Jan. 8 statement by the prime minister, who accused Shia Hazara protesters of blackmailing him as they refused for a sixth day to bury the bodies of miners killed in a brutal attack claimed by the Islamic State. The killings in Balochistan province on Jan. 3 were filmed and later posted online.
“No prime minister should be blackmailed like this, otherwise everyone will start blackmailing the prime minister,” said Imran Khan, adding that he would only visit Quetta once the funerals had taken place.
More than 3,000 protesters ended their protest at the weekend and buried the bodies after the PM assured them of his visit. But his remarks caused an immediate stir on social media. The hashtag #PMshouldapologize became a top trend.
“HRCP is appalled at PM Imran Khan’s statement on being ‘blackmailed’ by the Hazara mourners. The Hazara have long been relegated to the margins and persecuted to the point of genocide; to dismiss them as ‘blackmailers’ is disgraceful,” stated the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a Jan. 8 tweet.
“The PM has a duty of care to the community and must respect them. The state should take immediate steps to secure their lives and liberty.”