Thousands of miners have stopped working and many have left Balochistan after 10 Hazara employees were killed at a colliery in the Mach district last month by armed assailants, officials said on Thursday.
Since the murder of the Hazara miners, labour unions and government officials said up to 15,000 employees had downed instruments, causing about 200 mines to close and cut demand.
More than 100 mines, said Abdullah Shehwani, provincial head of coal mines, were “still non-functional.”
More than 40,000 workers work in Balochistan’s hundreds of small mines. Militant movements routinely extort security funds for ransom from colliery owners or seize employees. Failure to pay also ends in violence that is fatal.
A major part of the workforce is made up of refugees or economic migrants from Afghanistan, mainly from the oppressed Hazara group.
At the beginning of January, ten Hazara miners were abducted by gunmen from a remote colliery before being taken to surrounding hills, where most were shot dead and some were decapitated.
It sparked tremendous protests among the Hazaras, who make up the bulk of Quetta’s Shia population. Their Central Asian characteristics make the extremists, who deem them heretics, easy targets for them.
Local employees are calling for high wages and, in the event of an accident, the owners have to pay them money,” Habib Tahir, provincial chief of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, told AFP.”
“Afghan refugees … Low-pay jobs in coal mines.
But Behroz Reiki, president of the association of mine owners, said the current situation is causing severe difficulties for local communities as well.
“A coal mine closure means no jobs for security guards and other employees, including drivers, assistants and others who work in other sections,” he said.
Atif Hussain, an official from the mining department of the government, insisted that security had been improved.
We have given the Hazara staff special protection,” he said, adding: “Now they’re going to a police escort.
After government forces increased security, some mines were reopened, said MirDad Khel, president of the local coal miners’ association, but many miners were still frightened.
“Fifty percent of the staff are still hesitant to move back… They’re all unemployed,” he told AFP.
Even for their day-to-day expenses, even for one meal, they don’t have money.