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Protests Over Shi'ite Massacre Disrupt Transit In South Pakistan

A police vehicle is parked on a road covered with stones thrown by protesters in Karachi on January 7, the fifth day that demonstrations against the killing of 11 Shi'ite Hazara coal miners brought cancellations and delays to roads, railways, and airlines.

Ongoing protests in Pakistan over the recent killing of 11 Shi’ite ethnic Hazara coal miners have disrupted air, railway, and road traffic in the south of the country -- including the economically powerful southern port city of Karachi.

Sit-in protests by Shi’ite residents of the country’s financial hub have caused at least 30 flight delays and cancellations at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi during the past three days, a spokesman for national flag-carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) told RFE/RL on January 7.

The disruptions so far have affected at least 24 domestic and international PIA flights, Abdullah Khan said.

According to Tariq Asad, a spokesman for Pakistan Railways, intercity trains have also suffered long delays and other disruptions -- including those to and from Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore, and other cities.

Transport inside the city of Karachi has also been badly affected as protesters and mourners have blocked some of the city’s major roads.

In Quetta, the capital of Balochistan Province, trade unions and transporters shut businesses and halted public transport to express solidarity with the ethnic-Hazara community.

Thousands of people have rallied in several Pakistani cities since the 11 miners were found beheaded some 50 kilometers from Quetta early on January 3, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

Protesters Continue Sit-In After Killing Of Hazaras In Pakistan
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Despite freezing temperatures, residents and relatives of the slain miners have set up a makeshift camp on a highway on the outskirts of the city. They are refusing to bury the victims until authorities arrest the killers and guarantee their protection.

Their demands also include the dissolution of the provincial government.

Bilwal Bhutto Zardari, a leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was planning to visit the protest site on January 7.

The previous day, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that the government was taking steps to prevent such “brutal terrorist” attacks in the future. But he gave no details about the government's plans.

"Please bury your loved ones so their souls find peace," Khan wrote in a separate tweet.

Under Islamic tradition, burials should take place as quickly as possible after death.

Shi’ite ethnic Hazara have in the past been targeted in both Afghanistan and Pakistan by Sunni militant groups.

Resource-rich Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, has been plagued by sectarian violence, attacks by Islamist militants, and a separatist insurgency since 2004.