On Tuesday, August 24, three coal miners were found dead in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. This was after unidentified gunmen barged inside the Marwar coalfield area on Monday and abducted the workers, subsequently killing them. Some media reports mentioned a fourth victim as well.
The three deceased miners were identified as Hidayat-ur-Rehman, Abdul Wakeel and Gul Hakim. They worked for private coal companies, National Coal Company and Dinar Coal Mines.
Officials in Hanna police station and Civil Hospital confirmed that the coal miners died on the spot after suffering multiple bullet injuries. Two of those identified were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat, while the third belonged to Balochistan’s capital, Quetta.
The attackers fled the spot after firing on the miners. Targeted attacks against coal miners in Pakistan have been taking place for many years, and unions have organized a series of protests for the safety of the miners. This time around, no extremist outfit has claimed responsibility for the attack on the miners.
As per the members of the rescue operation, “the miners were missing on Monday, and their bodies were found by paramilitary troops Frontier Corps on Tuesday afternoon.”
Earlier in January, as many as 11 coal miners were killed in almost similar situations in Balochistan’s Mach area by unidentified gunmen who abducted the workers at gunpoint and later killed them in a nearby area.
The massacre of coal miners then triggered a series of protests from the Hazara community and locals. They refused to bury the dead bodies of the miners for several days, demanding those responsible for the attack to be penalized.
“In 2020, at least 102 coal miners were killed in Balochistan in 72 different incidents,” notes the Balochistan Coal Mines Workers Federation. Between January to March, at least 43 miners lost their lives in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province.
On March 19, the bodies of five coal miners, along with two rescuers, who were killed in a methane gas explosion were recovered in the Torghar gas field located in Balochistan’s Harnai district.
Similarly, in another incident, six miners lost their lives in an explosion triggered by the buildup of methane gas in the Marwar area on March 12.
Presently, there are more than 2,800 coal mines in seven different districts of Balochistan, where over 70,000 people work. Several activist groups have repeatedly complained that conditions of Pakistani mines remain unsafe for the miners. As per Pakistan Mines Labour Federation, the main reason for the crisis is “institutional apathy and the contract system”.