Hundreds of people have held a sit-in protest for the fourth consecutive day on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta to protest the killing of 11 Shi’ite ethnic Hazara coal miners.
Residents and relatives of the slain miners on January 6 again spent the night in a makeshift camp set up on a highway amid freezing temperatures.
They refuse to bury the victims’ bodies until authorities arrest the killers and Prime Minister Imran Khan personally visits them to assure the area's security.
"No one slaughters animals as fearlessly as they cut off the necks of our people. This is the murder of all humanity,” a female protester told RFE/RL.
Thousands of people have rallied in several Pakistani cities since the 11 miners were killed early on January 3 some 50 kilometers from Quetta, the capital of restive Balochistan Province, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.
Khan tweeted on January 6 that the government was taking steps to prevent such “brutal terrorist” attacks in the future, but he gave no details.
"Please bury your loved ones so their souls find peace," he wrote in a separate tweet.
Under Islamic tradition, burials take place as quickly as possible after death.
Pakistan's federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad and Balochistan provincial ministers have visited Quetta in recent days and tried to convince the demonstrators to end their sit-in, assuring them the protection of the authorities.
But Shi’ite leader Daud Agha called for “a decisive action and the arrest of all those who killed our people," while traders in Balochistan declared a strike in Quetta and all other major cities across the province on January 7.
Shi’ite Hazara have in the past been targeted by Sunni militant groups, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Resource-rich Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, has been plagued by sectarian violence, attacks by Islamist militants, and a separatist insurgency that has produced thousands of casualties since 2004.