–Rasheed seeks clerics’ cooperation to settle burial issue
–Maryam hits out at PM for not having visited Hazara protesters
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that he will visit Quetta after the protesters bury their dead, as their refusal to do so until he visits is “akin to blackmailing the prime minister”.
Speaking at a ceremony in connection with the launch of Special Technology Zones Authority in Islamabad on Friday, PM Imran said that he will visit Quetta on the very same day when slain coal miners are buried.
The prime minister was of the view that linking the burial with his prior visit makes no sense, adding that no one blackmails a sitting prime minister like this anywhere in the world. “If this condition is accepted then everyone will blackmail the prime minister,” the premier said, adding that a gang of robbers – the opposition parties – has also been trying to blackmail him for the last two-and-a-half years.
PM Imran said that Hazara is the most targeted community in the country. He said that he has visited them many times in the past and witnessed their fear, adding that “no community has been oppressed the way the Hazara community has been oppressed over the years”.
The premier said that the government has accepted all the demands of Hazara community and the bereaved families will be compensated and fully taken care of as they have lost their bread earners in the despicable incident. He said that he also sent his cabinet members to Hazara community to deliver a message that the government fully stands behind them.
PM Imran said that the Mach incident is part of the Indian conspiracy to instigate anarchy and sectarian strife in Pakistan. He once again accused India of spreading chaos in Pakistan, saying he has been saying it since March 2019 that “India is fully involved in spreading chaos” and wants to spread sectarian violence in the country.
He said that the Indian plot was to murder the religious scholars of different schools of thought. He commended the intelligence agencies for foiling four major terrorist activities including one in Islamabad. He said, “We have put out the fire which the enemy was conspiring to stoke through sectarianism.”
“India is trying its best to create chaos [in Pakistan],” he said.
“I had already told the cabinet that Shia ulema may be targeted in a bid to spread unrest. A Sunni alim was murdered in Karachi — we put out that fire with great difficulty.”
“The Mach labourers were killed with extreme brutality. I sent the interior minister as soon as I learnt about the Mach incident. Later, two federal ministers were sent as well,” he said.
“I want to make it clear that we have accepted all the demands but this is not appropriate that you put forth a condition that does not make sense.”
Turning to the launch of Special Technology Zones Authority, the prime minister said that the step is aimed at giving incentives to the IT sector to bolster its growth. This, he said, will provide immense job opportunities to the youth and boost national IT-related exports.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has said that cooperation of religious scholars has been sought to amicably settle the matter of burial of victims of the Mach terror incident.
Addressing a press conference on Friday, the interior minister confirmed that PM Imran will visit Quetta as soon as the matter of burial is settled.
Rasheed said that the reason the premier is waiting for the burials is that he could sit down with the community and speak to them in detail. The minister said that the premier supports the Hazara community completely and if the funeral rites are completed by that day then the premier will visit the community on the same day.
Talking about the speeches made by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, Rasheed said that some individuals were trying to turn this tragic incident into a political issue.
He pointed out that the international powers have been behind the targeting of the Hazara community over the last many years. He said that four such groups have been busted including one in the federal capital which wanted to stoke sectarian strife in the country by targeting the religious scholars of different schools of thought.
Strongly condemning the Mach incident, the interior minister said that the Frontier Corps (FC) has been directed for a large scale search operation in the area to bring the culprits to justice.
Rasheed said that it is the commitment of the prime minister to eradicate terrorism and those trying to stoke sectarian violence in the country.
Responding to a question, the interior minister admitted that there is a new wave of terrorism in the country. Currently, the cities of Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar are on high alert. He said that there are security threats to twenty personalities and these also include religious personalities.
He said that the government is making utmost efforts to further improve law and order in the country.
He added that the opposition is holding a protest demonstration outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the 19th of this month. He said that the opposition parties will not resign but they are now taking part in the by-elections and the Senate elections.
On the other hand, PML-N VP Maryam, while addressing a press conference in Karachi, said that PM Imran had admitted today that he was not going to Quetta “not because of a security threat but ego [and] his stubbornness”.
“The nation wants to know what was the problem which prevented you from going and putting your hand on their heads. If this was due to obedience, then the nation wants to know is obedience more important than the people’s lives?” she asked.
“If this is superstition then tell the nation so [it] knows the lives of 220 million people are not in the hands of any person or government but decided through superstition,” she lashed out at the premier.
“If this is insensitivity and ruthlessness then tell the nation so we know not to look towards you in crisis and [know that] you won’t come and call innocents blackmailers,” the PML-N leader added.
Terming his remarks “devoid of humanity” in her presser, Maryam said that the “callous leader” and his government had failed to take the needed steps to protect the vulnerable Shia Hazara community from becoming the targets of terrorism.
“They are not demanding inheritance from you or asking to resurrect the dead or demanding a long list,” she said in reply to the prime minster’s comment of so-called nonsense demands. “They only wanted you to come and give a hand of support so they could bury their dead; they only wanted two words of sympathy”.
Lashing out at the premier, she said, “This statement I heard today shook my heart, this ruthlessness, negligence in your duties and so much pride. We can only pray for you”.
She asked why the government would not reveal the reason behind why the premier could not visit Quetta. If it is a matter of “threats”, she said, then the opposition leaders faced those same threats.
“He is not in a position to give NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance-like concession),” Maryam said, referring to PM Imran. “The one who did not get the permission to go to Quetta, what worth does he have to give NRO?”
Thousands of members from the Shia Hazara community protesting the killing of coal miners in Balochistan continued the sit-in for the sixth straight day on Friday, refusing to bury the bodies despite a request from PM Imran and assurance of a visit.
On Sunday, the so-called Islamic State (IS) militants slit the throats of 11 miners belonging to the Hazara community in a residential compound near a mine site in Mach town of Balochistan’s Bolan district, filming the entire incident and later posting it online.
Six of the miners were already dead when found, and five who were critically wounded died on the way to the hospital.
Thousands of Hazaras have since staged a protest, arranging the coffins across a highway in Quetta, refusing to withdraw until the prime minister meets them and the killers are brought to justice.
Despite extremely harsh weather as the mercury drops to below freezing point, the mourners, including women and children, have refused to leave until Prime Minister Imran Khan meets them and the killers are brought to justice.
In a show of solidarity with the victims of the Mach killing, the business community called for a complete strike in Quetta. All main business centres of the provincial capital remained shut.
Maryam and PPP Chairman Bilawal had visited the Shia Hazara community on Thursday, wherein Maryam had criticised PM Imran for not visiting the region yet.
“I ask Imran Khan, these bodies that lie here, is your ego greater than these?” she had asked while addressing the crowd which was protesting the Mach killing victims.
Maryam had rhetorically asked if PM Imran had not come in fear of criticism, and advised him to come to share in the grief.
“I salute you all. You have more than 2,000 people you have lost. Each one of you is an open book, telling the story of such pain and sorrow,” she had said.
Bilawal had 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 our martyred and the dead have to protest,” he had said during his visit. Bilawal had added that while living expenses such as gas and electricity kept becoming more expensive, “the people’s blood is cheap”.
“The blood of our labourers is cheap, and that of political workers, police officers, lawyers, residents and the Hazara community.”