QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s prime minister Friday appealed the protesting minority Shiites not to link the burial of 11 coal miners from Hazara community who were killed by the Islamic State group to his visit to the mourners, saying such a demand amounted to blackmailing the country’s premier.
Hundreds of mourners, who despite harsh cold weather have been rallying in Quetta at the miners’ coffins, want Prime Minister Imran 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.
“No premier of any country should be blackmailed like this,” Khan said from Islamabad in televised remarks.
Under Islamic tradition, burials take place as quickly as possible after death. But Shiites from Hazara community for the straight sixth day continued their sit-in, refusing to bury the miners who were killed on Sunday after being abducted near the Machh coal field, 48 kilometers (30 miles) east of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.
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.
Shiites rejected Khan’s offer, saying their protest will continue.
More than 2,000 residents and relatives began their protest after IS militants abducted and then shot and killed the miners in Baluchistan province. Police video of the bodies revealed the miners were blindfolded and had their hands tied behind their backs before being shot.
The Sunni IS 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 neighbor India was behind the violence in Baluchistan. Khan has not shared any evidence to back up his claim.