What stopped PM Imran Khan from visiting Quetta to meet Hazara families?

Since the tragic day when terrorists brutally murdered the 11 coal miners from the Hazara community in Machh, Balochistan, their family members have been sitting in freezing cold demanding justice. One demand stood out. They wanted PM Imran Khan to meet them and promise them justice in person.

Over the next days, the call to bury their dead only when the prime minister visited gained prominence as the Hazara community staged protests not only in Quetta but Karachi. The demand turned into a national debate as different social media hashtags insisted PM go visit the bereaved families while others expressed their anger for the country’s leader for not standing up with the families of the victims saying that it was “his ego” that stopped him from visiting Quetta instantly.

But what stopped the head of the state from visiting the bereaved families of the coal miners? Reports claim that the prime minister wanted to visit Quetta soon after the tragedy but was advised to wait and postpone the visit due to “serious security concern” and “critical level threat to premier” as indicated by his close aides and security officials. Balochistan has seen a surge in terror attacks over the last months with several reports of militant infiltration from Afghanistan as evident from the recent attack on gruesome attacks on FC soldiers. The visit to Quetta at this critical time was even likened to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto after she repeatedly ignored intelligence reports about possible threats. 

As the protests continued, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) warned about a terror threat in Karachi backed by foreign agencies.

Another important development during this time was the arrest of seven terrorists by the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Sargodha, Khushab and Sahiwal. The militants from the banned Sipah-e-Mohammad group were planning attacks on leaders of rival Sunni Muslims’ groups to incite sectarian violence in Pakistan at a time when Shia community was staging protests in the country. With the arrests, “a big terrorist plot has been disrupted” the CTD said in its statement. “The mastermind of the network had been directing the network from a neighboring country” it added.

Some officials suggest that the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) leaders politicized the sensitive issue for political gains, offering the opposition opportunity to further exploit the situation. It was the political beneficiaries who the prime minister referred to when he said he would “not be blackmailed” into visiting, premier’s cabinet minister said. In his recent speech, PM Imran also warned that India is fanning the flames of sectarianism in Pakistan that the country has managed to quell as four major terrorist attacks were thwarted recently.

All these threats lead a to top-level decision to postpone PM Imran Khan’s immediate visit to Quetta that was severely criticized by citizens, especially on social media. But the prime minister has now decided to visit the grieving families on January 9. The visit comes as the five-day protest was called-off after the government managed to convince the Hazara community by agreeing to suspend officers, launch an investigation into the attack, to pay Rs1.5 million compensation to victim families as well as employment and scholarships.

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