Demonstrators continue to protest the Sunday killing of 11 Shia Hazara minority coal miners by Isis militants, for the fifth consecutive day in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan province in Pakistan.
The sit-in protest has now spread to other cities in Pakistan, including at least 19 locations in the economic powerhouse of Karachi, police said.
Over the last decade, hundreds of Hazara minorities have been killed in Pakistan in attacks by Pakistani Sunni Muslim militant groups who see Shia as apostates, and by Isis militants.
Attacks have included bombings in schools and crowded markets and brazen ambushes of buses along Pakistani roads.
Most of the victims on Sunday’s attack were seasonal migrant workers from an impoverished area of neighbouring Afghanistan.
Their gruesome killings, near the coal fields they worked, were filmed and later posted online by Islamic State.
The Afghanistan consulate in the city of Quetta said seven of the victims were Afghan, and asked Pakistani authorities to repatriate three of the bodies on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has dispatched three cabinet ministers to persuade the protesters in Quetta to disperse, to no avail.
“I share your pain & have come to you before also to stand with you in your time of suffering,” Mr Khan tweeted on Wednesday.
“I will come again very soon to offer prayers and console with all the families personally.”
The protesters have asked the prime minister to visit Quetta, where demonstrators have kept up a five-day long vigil alongside coffins carrying the victims’ bodies, blocking a major highway.
Flights were delayed because access to the airport had been affected.
The protesters demands also include the dissolution of the provincial government there, and a serious effort by Islamabad to find and punish the culprits.
Leaders of Pakistan’s two largest opposition parties, Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, were scheduled to visit the Quetta sit-in on Thursday.
After nearly 100 Hazaras were killed in a 2013 bombing in Quetta, sit-ins were held across Pakistan that only ended after the then prime minister met with the mourners. (Source: Independent UK)