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Govt figures ask who is ‘playing politics’ over bodies of slain Hazara coal miners

(L-R): Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi,, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill and Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed. — PID/File

Government figures on Friday said politics is being played over the bodies of the 10 Hazara coal miners who were brutally murdered in Machh on Sunday.

Their statements came as protests spread all over the country, and as the nation grew anxious to see the redressal of the grievances of the Hazara community who have been mourning the massacre for the past six days and have refused to bury their loved ones until Prime Minister Imran Khan visits them.

Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi, who had gone to the protesters camp on Tuesday night, shared a copy of the agreement made between the protesters and the government.

“Attached are demands and the written agreement offered by the government. Although, no one can ever put a value on human life, but for info, the agreed compensation is much higher than what the agreement says,” he began by saying.

He then went on to to cryptically say: “If all is agreed, then who is playing politics with bodies of the martyrs?”

Adding further to the confusion, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill made similar remarks, saying that from Hazara Party Chairman Abdul Khaliq Hazara’s remarks “it is clear that the heirs have been wanting to bury their loved ones since the very next day (of the incident).”

“There are some other elements who wish to create unrest in this matter,” he said.

He added that a leader does not make decisions based on emotion or under pressure from the Opposition. “Leaders make decisions that have far-reaching consequences”.

The ministers’ statements came as Prime Minister Imran Khan, during a ceremony today to launch Special Technology Zones Authority in Islamabad, said: “One does not blackmail the prime minister of any country this way.”

His remarks stirred up a storm, with the Opposition criticising the premier for likening just demands to “blackmail” and for “lacking humanity”.

Minister for Information Shibli Faraz, in his rebuttal to the Opposition said: “The people who see a tragedy like this one as an opportunity for political point scoring are the ones who do not have any humanity left in them.”

He said the prime minister used the word “blackmail” for those very people who “politicise every matter”.

‘Govt in touch with protesters’

Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, meanwhile, said that the government is in touch with the protesters and the Hazara community leaders and hoped that the matter would see an amicable resolution today.

He said that there are certain reasons due to which PM Imran Khan’s visit to Quetta has been delayed “which cannot be made public”.

Sheikh Rasheed said that the prime minister will depart for Quetta “as soon as the deceased are buried”.

We have sought help from the religious leaders of Ahl-e-Tashee, scholars, and Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) to convince the families to bury the martyred, the minister said.

“It is a sad state of affairs that some sections are politicising this matter while there is a lot of time for politics in the future,” he lamented.

He said Special Assistant to Prime Minister, Zulfi Bukhari and Federal Minister Ali Zaidi are already present in Quetta to condole with the bereaved families.

PM Imran Khan has always shown great sympathy and love for the Hazara community and is pursuing his approach of rooting out sectarianism and terrorism from the country, said the minister.

‘New wave of terrorism’

Sheikh Rasheed said international elements were involved in targeting the Hazara community.

Four such criminal groups have been caught from Sargodha, Bhara Kahu and Karachi which were involved in instigating sectarian violence and intended to kill religious scholars.

The minister also confirmed that a new wave of terrorism exists in the country including Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar which are on high alert.

The incident

The 10 coal miners were kidnapped before dawn on January 3 as they slept near a remote coal mine in the town of Machh, some 60 kilometres southeast of Quetta city.

Security officials who did not want to be named told AFP that the attackers first separated the miners before tying their hands and feet and taking them into the hills to kill them.

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