Islamabad, Jan 8 (PTI) Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday appealed to the families of 11 coal miners from the minority Shia Hazara community, who were massacred by the Islamic State terrorists last week, to bury the dead, saying they should not 'blackmail' him into meeting them.
Islamic State terrorists on Sunday last abducted and shot dead 11 coal miners in Mach area of restive Balochistan province. The families of the deceased have been on a protest sit-in since the day of the attack, blocking the main highway linking Quetta to other parts of the country.
The protesters have demanded that Prime Minister Khan visit them. On Wednesday, Minister for Shipping Ali Zaidi and Advisor on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bokhari -- both Shiites -- met the aggrieved families and tried to convince them to perform the burials but to no avail.
Speaking at the launch ceremony of the Special Technology Zones Authority in Islamabad, Prime Minister Khan said he was ready to visit the families of the victims after they were buried.
'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,' he said.
Khan, who is facing mounting pressure from an 11-Opposition party alliance, said that such 'demands' would set a wrong precedent; 'anyone will blackmail the prime minister then'.
Calling the Opposition's Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) a “band of crooks”, Khan said that their “blackmail has also been ongoing for two-and-a-half years.” Khan said he would visit Quetta tomorrow, if the dead were buried.
“So first, bury the dead. If you do it today then I guarantee you that I will come to Quetta today,' he said.
Shiite supporters of Hazaras are also holding sit-in protests in several other cities like Karachi and Islamabad.
All main opposition leaders including Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of Pakistan Peoples Party and Maryam Nawaz of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have visited them.
Khan's blackmailing remarks have come under heavy criticism from the opposition. Maryam said it was his “stubbornness” that prevented the prime minister from visiting the mourners.
“The nation wants to know what is the problem which prevents you from going (to Quetta) and console the victims’ families by putting your hand on their heads,” she said, adding that 220 million should not look towards the premier in crisis because he would not come to their help and instead “call innocents blackmailers”.
Terrorist attacks have increased in regularity in Balochistan. Hazaras are disproportionately targeted by sectarian violence as they are easily identifiable due to their distinctive physical appearance.
The Hazaras are part of the Shia community who live in Balochistan and Afghanistan. They have been often targeted by the Sunni militants. PTI SH IND IND