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Pakistan: Rawalpindi violence kills nine; curfew back on after 4-hour-break

17th Nov 2013

[Photo: Jang]

ISLAMABAD (Agencies, Dawn): In order to prevent violent attacks and maintain law and order ahead of the funerals of Friday’s victims today, curfew has been imposed again in Rawalpindi after a four-hour break from 9pm Saturday to 1am Sunday.

According to details, violence erupted when an Ashura procession coincided with a sermon at a nearby mosque in Raja Bazaar area on Friday killing at least nine and wounding at least 50 others.

Meanwhile, cellular phone services are now blocked in Islamabad as well. The suspension will last till 2pm on Sunday, DawnNews reported. Earlier, authorities had decided to suspend mobile phone services in Rawalpindi until Sunday afternoon.

A contingent of 5,000 policemen has also reached from provincial capital, Lahore to strengthen security in the city.

Shoaib Bin Aziz, an official with the Punjab government, said Saturday that residents were ordered to stay in their homes until further notice.

Soldiers and police were patrolling the streets to impose the curfew.

“A curfew has been imposed in Rawalpindi city to avert further violence following the incidents on Friday,” Waseem Ahmed, an official at the main police control room, told AFP.

“The curfew will remain until midnight on Saturday. The whole city has been closed down,” he said.

Large numbers of troops were deployed in the city today and soldiers patrolled the streets.

All entry points into Rawalpindi were blocked, resulting in traffic chaos on Saturday morning that choked parts of the highways leading to Islamabad.

Incidents of arson were also reported during the time of the clash in which shops in a cloth market in the city’s Raja Bazaar and a seminary were set alight.

Television cameramen and members of the security forces were also caught in the crossfire on Friday between the groups whose members resorted to stone-pelting and also fired gunshots.

The Jaffria Alliance condemned the violence in Rawalpindi and demanded from the provincial government to bring to justice those who had resorted to gunfire.

Hospital officials said that those wounded in the violence on Friday had multiple injuries.

“So far we can confirm the death of eight people from the violence. We received a total of 44 injured people and 13 of them had gunshot wounds,” Qasim Khan, a doctor at Rawalpindi’s district hospital, had told AFP earlier.

An official from the rescue department said that the rescue operation was still ongoing and they were yet to fully control the fire.

“The firefighting still goes on. Mobile phone communication has been jammed, so we are unable to quickly update about the relief activities,” Nazim Javed, a rescue worker, told AFP.

The violence appears to have erupted when an Ashura procession coincided with a sermon at a nearby mosque.

“The clash started when a sermon was being delivered from a mosque which was on the procession route,” Ahmed told AFP.

Police officer Afzal Hussain told AP earlier that participants of a procession beat to death three men from a seminary in Rawalpindi for insulting them as their procession passed the religious school.

The procession members dragged the harassers out of the seminary after hearing the shouted insults and beat them to death, Hussain said.

The clash triggered a stampede in the procession which caused more casualties.

Violence also erupted in the southern city of Multan and Chishtian town, where civil authorities called in army troops to maintain law and order.

A senior police official in Multan told AFP that at least 12 people were injured when Sunni groups took to the streets to protest the Rawalpindi incident, leading to clashes with Shias who fired warning shots in the air.

In neighbouring Chishtian, a Shia mosque was partially damaged and several shops were destroyed when Sunni groups torched it in retaliation for the violence in Rawalpindi.

All entry points into Rawalpindi were blocked, resulting in traffic chaos on Saturday morning that choked parts of the highways leading to Islamabad.

Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, of which Rawalpindi is a major city, told an official meeting following the clashes that the government ensures the culprits for the clash are brought to justice.

“We condemn the act of violence in Rawalpindi and sympathise with the aggrieved families. We will take the culprits to the task,” he said in his statement.

But Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who is a member of the National Assembly from the area, said that violence there was the result of local administration’s failure.

“I declare the local administration responsible for Friday’s violent acts. They failed to control the situation,” Ahmed told a news conference.

http://dawn.com/news/1056553/rawalpindi-violence-kills-nine-curfew-back-on-after-4-hour-break

 

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