While condoling with the grieving protesters, Maryam said she was at a loss for words because while the entire nation shared the pain of the Hazaras, no one could truly feel the tragedy that had befallen the miners’ families.
She said she was aware that the Hazara population in Quetta “has been limited to a two-kilometre radius” and that they could neither freely earn their living nor move about freely in their schools and colleges.
“I am sad that you are calling for an insensitive man and he doesn’t have the time to come here,” she said while referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“Today I want to say while putting aside all political differences, please visit, for God’s sake. The state’s job is to protect its people, especially those who are under attack and vulnerable.”
While a state is referred to as a “mother”, Maryam told the protesters, “I am aware that this mother did not serve you rightfully.”
She continued while addressing the authorities: “If you have failed in your duty [to protect the Hazaras], then have some courage, come here and sympathise with these people.”
The PML-N leader said the protesters accompanied by their loved ones’ coffins were “awaiting” the prime minister.
“Is your ego bigger than their pain and these bodies? And then you say politics should not be done on this issue. We never do that, but if you think you can dodge your failure and callousness by crying ‘politics’, we won’t let that happen,” she added.
She said the premier “will have to come here and put his hand on the [protesters’] heads”, stressing that the community was not demanding anything major but only for the prime minister to visit and talk so they could bury the miners’ bodies.
“If you are not coming because you are afraid of criticism, then it’s not a big deal; come here and listen to the criticism for a little while. But it is your duty to take part in your people’s grief,” she told Imran.
Maryam said protest leaders had told her they would not bury the dead if the premier did not visit them “even for 100 days”.
“And if this ruler does not visit this place, then he should listen, this nation will no longer allow him to sit on the chair in Islamabad,” she added.
Maryam had announced her visit in a tweet on Wednesday, saying: “On the direction of Nawaz Sharif I’m going to my sisters and brothers [in Balochistan] with a request to hand over their dead to Allah Almighty. I am sure they will not reject my request. For the last four days the Hazara community has been calling the heartless in Islamabad.”
On Sunday, armed attackers slit the throats of 11 miners in a residential compound near a mine site in Balochistan’s Mach coalfield area, filming the entire incident and later posting it online. The gruesome attack was claimed by the militant Islamic State group.
Since then, thousands of Hazaras have staged a protest along with coffins containing the miners’ bodies in the western bypass area in Quetta, while members of their community have also held protests in Karachi.
Despite extremely harsh weather as the mercury drops to below freezing point, the mourners, including women and children, have refused to leave until Prime Minister Imran meets them and the killers are brought to justice.
Meanwhile, people have taken to the streets in several cities across the country as protesters express anger at the killing of the miners and demand protection for the Shia Hazara community.
In Karachi, protests continued for the third straight day with demonstrators blocking roads in the metropolis, causing traffic disruptions and delays in flight operations.
Protests were ongoing since 9am at 20 locations in the city, according to a statement by the Karachi Traffic Police.
A larger number of civil society activists also protested against the killings at Liberty Chowk in Lahore.
Holding placards and chanting slogans, the protesters demanded that Prime Minister Imran immediately visit the Hazaras in Quetta and that steps be taken to prevent such attacks in the future.
In Peshawar, protesters gathered at the Peshawar Press Club, saying their demonstration would not end until Prime Minister Imran went to Quetta.
They demanded that the perpetrators of the incident be arrested “soon” and an inquiry be launched.