Pakistan's PM Imran Khan has said burials of the victims should not be linked to his visit, adding that is tantamount to blackmail, as protests alongside coffins of the slain ethnic minority Hazara miners enter sixth day.
As Pakistani protesters entered the sixth day of a sit-in with the coffins of nine of 11 Hazara men slain on Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan has demanded they bury the victims instead of using them to "blackmail" him into a visit to hear their woes.
The 11 coal miners from the Hazara ethnic minority were killed in Macch in Pakistan's Balochistan province in an attack claimed by the Daesh group known for targeting the Shia sect in neighbouring Afghanistan as well. Two of the men were taken to Afghanistan for burial soon after the attack.
Hundreds of mourners, who despite harsh cold weather have been rallying in the provincial capital Quetta with the miners' coffins, want Khan to personally visit them to assure their protection. They have vowed they were ready to continue their protest for 100 days if Khan does not accept their key demand. Political leaders from the country's opposition parties have visited the mourners. The Shia Ulema Council has called for a nationwide protest moment.
“No premier of any country should be blackmailed like this,” Khan said from Islamabad in televised remarks.
According to English newsgroup Dawn, sources said PM will visit Quetta soon but the details are being kept as a secret due to security.
"I share your pain and have come to you before also to stand with you in your time of suffering. I will come again very soon to offer prayers and condole with all the families personally," Khan tweeted addressing mourning families.
"I will never betray my people's trust. Please bury your loved ones so their souls find peace," he added.
I share your pain & have come to you before also to stand with you in your time of suffering. I will come again very soon to offer prayers and condole with all the families personally. I will never betray my people's trust. Please bury your loved ones so their souls find peace.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 6, 2021
One reason being given by govt spokespersons for the PM not visiting Quetta is security.— Benazir Shah (@Benazir_Shah) January 8, 2021
If that is the case then the message to Hazaras seems to be: if the state can’t protect its own PM, how can it offer them security.
PM puts condition on condolence visit
Under Islamic tradition, burials take place as quickly as possible after death. But the community has refused to bury the miners who were killed after they were abducted near Machh coalfield, 48 kilometres (30 miles) east of Quetta.
Khan, speaking from Islamabad in televised remarks, said his government had accepted all of the demands of mourners, except that the dead would be buried when he personally visits them to assure their protection.
He said he could travel to Quetta today to meet with the relatives of miners if they bury the miners first.
The community has rejected Khan's offer, saying their protest will continue.
READ MORE: Anger over killing of Shia miners spreads to several Pakistani cities
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz have paid a visit to mourning community.
Zardari and Nawaz separately tweeted to show solidarity with Hazaras and urged them to bury their dead and not wait for Khan to arrive.
اُن دکھی ماؤں،بہنوں بیٹیوں کے غم کا اندازہ کون لگا سکتا ہے جن کو جی بھر کے رونے کے لیے کوئی کندھا بھی نہیں ملا۔میں کیسے بھول پاؤں گی غم میں آہیں بھرتی ان خواتین کو جو مجھ سے لپٹ کر دھاڑیں مار کر روئیں۔جن کے آنسؤں سے میرا کوٹ تر ہوگیا۔ آج ایک اورکربلا دیکھی ،غمِ حسین تازہ ہو گیا۔ pic.twitter.com/cfs8flTaVa— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) January 7, 2021
More than 2,000 residents and relatives began their protest after Daesh militants abducted and killed the miners.
Police video of the bodies revealed the miners were blindfolded and had their hands tied behind their backs before being killed. Daesh footage showed their throats were slit. Four were said to have been beheaded.
The Daesh affiliate claimed responsibility and since then authorities have been raiding militant hideouts to trace and arrest those who orchestrated the killing of miners, although Khan insist Pakistan's neighbour India was behind the violence in Baluchistan.
Khan has not shared any evidence to back up his claim.
READ MORE: The trouble with being Hazara in Pakistan's Quetta city