Members of the Shia Hazara community who have blockaded a highway in Quetta with the bodies of slain coal miners said on Tuesday they will not withdraw until Prime Minister Imran Khan meets them and the killers are brought to justice.
Armed attackers slit the throats of 11 miners in a residential compound near a mine site in Balochistan's Mach coal field area on Sunday, filming the entire incident and later posting it online. The gruesome attack was claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS) group.
Thousands of Hazaras have since staged a protest, arranging the coffins in the western bypass area in Quetta.
“We have become tired of picking up the bodies of our people,” Syed Agha Raza, a Hazara Shia political leader, told Reuters.
Masooma Yaqoob Ali told Reuters her elder brother along with four other relatives were among those killed.
“Now we have no male member [of our family] to take coffins of our brother and other relatives to the graveyard for burial,” she said, shedding tears as she spoke.
The protesters are refusing to bury the victims of the attack until demands, which include the resignation of the provincial government, are met. Protests also took place on Tuesday in Karachi.
Balochistan Home Secretary Hafiz Basid told Reuters at least nine of the victims were from Afghanistan, and two bodies had thus far been taken there for burial. Afghanistan's Foreign Office said in a statement that seven of the dead were Afghan, and both sides were investigating the incident together.
Hazaras have faced persecution by extremists in both countries. Some Afghan Hazaras come to Pakistan for work in the winter, including at the coal mines in Balochistan.
On Monday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who arrived in Quetta on Prime Minister Imran's instructions, held negotiations with the grieving Hazaras. He told them that the government was ready to accept all their demands except the one seeking the resignation of the provincial government and urged them to call off their protest so that the bodies could be laid to rest.
The Hazara community, however, did not accede to his call. Despite extremely harsh weather as the mercury dropped to minus 8 degrees Celsius in Quetta, the mourners, including women and children, refused to leave the protest site close to Hazara town and call off the protest, demanding ouster of the government and a judicial probe into the tragedy.
Provincial ministers Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi and Noor Mohammad Dummar and Deputy Commissioner Aurangzeb Badini also held talks with the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) leaders taking part in the protest. However, the negotiations remained unsuccessful as the protesting leaders refused to call off their sit-in until the visit of the premier for talks.
Hundreds of Hazara have been killed over the last decade in attacks, including bombings in schools and crowded markets and brazen ambushes of buses along roads.