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Three Afghan coal miners shot dead in Balochistan

Miners hauling coal (Photo: IANS)

Armed men shot dead three Afghan coal miners working in a remote area in Pakistan's Balochistan province on Sunday.

The incident took place on Sunday morning in the Zalawan area of Balochistan. The assailants opened fire on the miners and escaped into the mountains, according to Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

The dead miners belonged to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Balochistan has seen the death of nearly 100 coal miners this year due to kidnappings, murders, accidents and gas leaks.

Dawn quoted the secretary-general of the Pakistan Central Mines and Labour Federation, Lala Sultan, as saying that nearly 104 coal miners have lost their lives in the province this year, including by a gas leak incident in September.

Just a couple of days before the killings, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had on Friday expressed its concern over violations and poor working conditions in Balochistan’s coal mines. The rights body highlighted that Balochistan is neglected as the compensation for death and injury is just Rs three lakh in Balochistan while it is Rs five lakh in Pakistan's other provinces.

In January this year, armed men had kidnapped 11 coal miners and killed them in the mountains of Machh area, Balochistan. the incident was widely condemned as the impoverished coal miners belonged to the minority Hazara community. Being Shias, the Hazaras have been the target of attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The murder of the coal miners had triggered unrest as the Hazara community blocked roads and held demonstrations in Baloch capital Quetta and the Pakistani financial powerhouse of Karachi. Prime Minister Imran Khan had to visit them after the protests showballed.

The gruesome murders caused outrage in the US where expat Pakistanis protested outside their own consulate general in New York. They held placards to protest the killings of the Hazara ethnic community as well as the Shia minority.

Large numbers of Hazaras have fled neighbouring Afghanistan and settled in Pakistan due to fear of attacks from the Taliban as well as the Islamic State (IS). In Pakistan too they are not safe as they are targeted for being Shias. After the Taliban victory in Kabul, Islamabad even began to deport the minority Hazaras back to Afghanistan, ostensibly to please their ally–the Taliban.