Islamabad [Pakistan], January 8 (ANI): Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused members of the Hazara community of "blackmailing" him after they refused to bury the remains of 11 coal miners, who were killed in the Islamic States' attack, until the premier visits them.
Braving the bone-chilling weather, hundreds of members of the Hazara community have been protesting for several days against the killing of 11 coal miners in Machh town of Balochistan. Since the attack, the relatives of those killed placed their coffins on a highway in Quetta and refused to bury the dead until the killers were apprehended and Khan came to meet them.
However, Khan has turned down the demand, terming it as blackmailing, Dawn reported.
"We have accepted all of their demands. [But] one of their demands is that the dead will be buried when the premier visits. I have sent them a message that when all of your demands have been accepted [...] you don't blackmail the prime minister of any country like this," Khan said on Friday while speaking at an event here.
"Anyone will blackmail the prime minister then," he said, adding that this included a "band of crooks" in apparent reference to the Pakistan Democratic Movement. "This blackmail has also been ongoing for two-and-a-half years. This should be clear. All of your demands have been met but you can't impose a condition which has [no logic]. So first, bury the dead. If you do it today then I guarantee you that I will come to Quetta today," he added.
On Sunday, unidentified gunmen stormed a coal mine in Machh town near Quetta, pulling out ethnic Hazaras, members of Pakistan's Shia minority community, from their homes and opening fire 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.
The protestors have held several rounds of negotiations with members of Khan's cabinet, including Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed, but to no avail.
Through the week, protests spread to several other cities, including Karachi, Lahore and other towns.
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. (ANI)