Security has been put on high alert in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi after mass riots last week resulted in the death of eight people and the subsequent arrest of more than ten others.
The Muharram 10 sectarian clashes, between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, saw clothes shops burned in the Raja Bazaar as well as gunfire from a group of miscreants who opened fire near an Ashura procession.
An Ashura procession comes on the tenth day of the Muharram calendar, and is observed by Shi’a Muslims as a time of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala.
As well as the fatalities, at least 35 people were injured, many due to gunfire, and now the city has been put on a curfew as the religious period passes.
It was lifted shortly in the weekend, yet after protestors demonstrated against the tragedy, and forced the closure of shops in Raja Bazaar, Bara Market, Sabzi Mandi, Urdu Bazaar and other markets of the city, it was reinstated just hours later.
Three of the suspects arrested have confessed to the crime, whilst seven others remain in custody on suspicion of disturbing the peace and rioting.
Disturbances were also reported in the Multan and Bhawalnagar districts of Punjab province, with the army being called in to quell unrest. The move comes a day after the provincial government ordered a major shake-up of law enforcement personnel in the wake of Rawalpindi unrest.
Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Khan Baig had changed nearly the entire toplevel police bureaucracy in Rawalpindi city.
The authorities have now also stepped up security ahead of the future mourning ceremonies, including the jamming of mobile phone networks.