The killing of the 11 impoverished miners in Balochistan province has taken a sectarian turn as all the dead belong to the minority Shia community – people who have often been targeted by the majority Sunni Muslims.The miners were kidnapped and killed near the town of Mach, which is close to the Balochistan capital, Quetta, and also close to the Afghan border. They had been blindfolded and their hands tied together before being killed. The miners were abducted at gunpoint from their shared accommodation close to the mines, taken to isolated mountains and shot dead.
Pakistan human rights activist Amjad Ayub Mirza, told the media that the Hazara Shias in Balochistan have been facing a genocide at the hands of the Pakistani Army. In a video message, he also spoke about the long-running freedom struggle of the Baloch people from Pakistan. Besides Balochistan, Mirza also wants freedom for the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) region from Pakistan. Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan and also its poorest.
The people of the resources-rich region feel exploited as they have one of the lowest human development indicators. They also say that the ample resources from Balochistan have been taken away for the prosperity of other other provinces of the country. Many Baloch people also say their exploitation has increased after the massive $64 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was initiated by the two countries.
The CPEC envisages the construction of ports, roads, railways besides commercial activities like mining. Thousands of Chinese have landed in Balochistan owning to the project, leading to the local people feeling even more alienated. In his video message, Mirza said: "An operation is underway in Balochistan by Pakistan Army. They are visiting locals houses in the area and are abducting them. They are killing children and women there and are looting belongings from the locals. It is yet to know how many Baloch people have been killed in the area."
The Dawn newspaper reported that members of the Hazara community in Quetta blocked roads and set fire to tyres as a mark of protest. Even earlier, the community has been targeted by the Taliban as well as the Islamic State (IS). The Hazaras have faced attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Referring to a video made after the ghastly killings, which has gone viral now, Mirza said: "This incident has been objected by the people of the Hazara community in Balochistan. However, nobody paid heed to them. You have seen the video of the heartbreaking incident. You can see they were tied up and then executed."
Reuters said in a news report that the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Hazara Shias. "Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack, through its Amaq news agency via its Telegram communications channel," Reuters said in its report. In April last year, a suicide bombing in a market place had killed 18 people, most of them Hazaras. Minorities in Pakistan have remained under consistent attacks from the majoritarian Sunni community.
The country has also been pulled up on international forums for State discrimination against minorities – forced conversions, extrajudicial killings, targeted violence and even large-scale violence against Christians, Hindus and Sikhs besides Muslim communities like the Ahmadiyyas and the Shias. Even the International Religious Freedom Report brought out by the US has documented numerous instances of violence over alleged blasphemy, conversions, discrimination and threats of violence towards members of religious minorities.