QUETTA: Ending a week of protests, hundreds of Shia Pakistanis gathered on Saturday here to bury 11 coal miners from the Hazara community, who were killed in an Islamic State attack.
The rites of the dead miners were carried out amid tight security, six days after their deaths, Al Jazeera reported.
On Sunday, unidentified gunmen stormed into a coal mine in Mach town near Quetta, pulling out ethnic Hazaras, members of Pakistan’s Shia minority community, from their homes and open firing on them.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Following the deadly attack, protests erupted in the region with the kin of the victims refusing to bury the dead until the government meets their demands.
Shia across the country joined in the demonstrations – including blocking roads in major cities – demanding that Prime Minister Imran Khan visit the grieving community in Quetta and assure their protection.
Pakistan authorities on Friday promised the arrest of the attackers, payment of compensation to the bereaved families and better security for the Hazara.
The burial comes a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan accused the grieving kin of the slain miners of blackmailing him after they refused to bury the remains of the dead until the premier visits them. Khan said once the slain miners would be buried, he will visit Quetta and meet the families of the miners.
Dozens of Shia protested on Friday in the capital of Islamabad, denouncing Khan for calling the mourners blackmailers.
Khan was widely criticised on social media as amidst countrywide protests and rising political pressure, he suggested that the protesters were “blackmailing” him by refusing to bury their loved ones until he visits them, Dawn reported.
Pakistan’s opposition leaders have also condemned Imran Khan for his remarks, calling him a ‘stone-hearted man’.
In a tweet, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: “The man (Imran Khan) who has become prime minister with the blessings of a few generals can never feel the pain of the masses. The oppressed people of the Hazara community are waiting for the man who is calling them ‘blackmailers’.”
Speaking at a press conference in Karachi, Maryam said Khan had admitted today that he was not going to Quetta because of his ego and stubbornness, reported Dawn. “The nation wants to know what was the problem, which prevented you from going and putting your hand on their heads. If this was due to obedience (tabedari), then the nation wants to know is obedience more important than the people’s lives?” she said.
The National Commission on Human Rights has estimated that more than 2,000 Hazaras – adherents of the minority Shia Muslim sect, and easily targeted due to their distinctive facial features – have been killed in targeted attacks since 2004, Al Jazeera reported.
They have been subject to targeted shootings and mass bomb and suicide attacks, particularly in Quetta, where the majority of the country’s estimated half a million Hazaras reside.
Since 2013, after some of the worst bombings took place, the city’s Hazara population has been largely restricted to residing within two heavily fortified enclaves on either side of the city.