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Pakistan orders probe into sectarian clashes

November 17, 2013 19:27 IST

Pakistan on Sunday ordered a judicial probe into sectarian clashes in Rawalpindi that killed at least 10 people as authorities imposed curfew for the second day, turning the garrison city into a ghost town.

A judicial commission headed by Lahore High Court Judge Justice Mamoon Rashid Shaikh will conduct the probe into the Rawalpindi mayhem, which prompted authorities to call in Army to maintain law and order situation in the city.

After a respite of three-and-a-half hours (9 pm to 12.30am) last night, curfew was re-imposed as a preventive measure because the burial of those killed in Friday's clashes is set to be held.

Mobile phone networks continued to be suspended in Rawalpindi. The cellphone network was also suspended in Islamabad but was resumed after 2 pm.

Curfew was imposed within the limits of 19 police stations of Rawalpindi after Shias participating in a Muharram procession clashed with students from a Sunni seminary on Friday.

Ten people were killed and over 40 injured in the violence.

Police and a large number of soldiers continued to patrol various areas in Rawalpindi today as the situation remained tense.

This is the first time in years that curfew has been imposed in the Punjab province and especially in Rawalpindi, which also houses the Army headquarters.

Rawalpindi has been sealed off from Islamabad by containers and the imposition of curfew had ensured that most streets and roads remained empty and quiet.

Only military and police personnel roamed the ghost town.

Army has already been deployed in Multan and Chishtian town of Punjab province after clashes took place there also following the unrest in Rawalpindi.

At least one person was killed and several injured, media reports had said.

A report prepared by intelligence agencies blamed the provincial government and its law enforcement agencies for the violence in Rawalpindi on Ashura, which commemorates the death of Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Dawn reported.

The report sent to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif pointed out that Madressah Taleemul Quran situated on the main Ashura procession route had been declared "highly sensitive" under the Muharram security plan.

However, the seminary and the mosque were not provided with an adequate security.

The report said the district administration and police authorities arrived at the scene only after the violence had erupted and a nearby market was set on fire.

Even no one from the peace committee accompanied the Ashura procession.

The committee, comprising ulema from different schools of thought, was supposed to be present on such occasions to ensure peace.

Over 100 people, including 19 prominent religious personalities from both the communities, were named in the FIR registered by the police under the Anti-Terrorism Act, said the report.

However, no arrests have so far been made.

The trouble started when Qari Shakir, who led the prayers at the mosque, began delivering a speech through the loudspeaker at around 1.30pm.

The local administration had banned the use of loudspeakers except for azaan (call forprayer) and khutba (sermon) in Arabic in worship places, but no one stopped the cleric from suing the loudspeaker even though the police were present on the spot.

The intelligence report added that the violence could have been averted had the ban been enforced by the district administration and the police.

Footage on TV showed numerous shots being fired by unidentified men as members of the two groups resorted to stone-pelting and firing.

Youths broke the cameras of TV reporters and footage on television showed participants of the Shia procession beating policemen. 

Snehesh Alex Philip in Islamabad
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