Mourners from Hazara community shout slogans as they gather next to the coffins of miners at the eastern bypass on the outskirts of Quetta on Friday. AFP
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday asked the mourning Hazara community in Quetta to refrain from "blackmailing” him by putting the condition that he should visit them otherwise they would not bury their members slaughtered in the Mach tragedy.
While speaking at the launching ceremony of the Special Technology Zones Authority, he appealed to them to bury those killed. "If you bury the dead today, I will reach Quetta today.”
Supporters of a civil society organisation hold a demonstration to protest the killing of coal miners in Lahore. AP
Imran said the government has assured the protesters that they will be compensated. "We have accepted all of their demands. But one of them 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. 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 (PDM). "This blackmail has also been ongoing for two-and-a-half years."
The prime minister said that the protesters were informed that he will visit once they bury those slain in the attack. "I am using this platform to say that if you bury them today, I will go to Quetta to meet the families of the deceased. 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."
Braving the biting cold, the mourners, including women and children, have refused to leave until the premier visits and the killers are brought to justice.
Imran stated that the Hazara community has faced "the most cruelty." He said that the killing of the 11 coal miners in Mach was part of a conspiracy that he has been highlighting since March.
Mourners gather next to the coffins of miners in Quetta. AFP
"I had informed my cabinet and then gave public statements on this: India is trying its level best to spread chaos in Pakistan," he said, adding that this was focused on fanning the flames of sectarianism. I laud our intelligence agencies on the fact that they thwarted four major terrorist events. Despite this, a high profile Sunni religious scholar was killed in Karachi; with great difficulty we managed to quell the flames of a sectarian divide."
He said that as soon as the Machhincident took place, he first sent Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid and then two federal ministers — Ali Haider Zaidi and Zulfi Bukhari — to speak with the mourners and assure them that the government stood with them. "We know, me especially, the kind of cruelty they have faced."
The protesters have said they will not bury the miners' bodies until Prime Minister Imran meets them and the killers are brought to justice, continuing their protest on Wednesday for a fourth straight day.
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