Rawalpindi, the garrison twin city of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, was in the grip of violent clashes which erupted on November 15 during a religious procession, forcing authorities to impose a curfew. The mayhem resulted in the death of several people, while scores were left injured.
The curfew was lifted on Monday morning, but the unrest spread to the cities of Multan and Lahore in the Punjab province as well as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's towns of Kohat and Hangu. Curfew was also imposed in Multan, Kohat and Hangu.
There has been little coverage of the incident, but it was reported that the violence erupted on Friday when the procession was passing through Rawalpindi.
The Shiite community was mourning the death of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Muslim Holy Prophet Mohammad. As the procession neared a religious seminary called the Darul Uloom Taleemul Quran, whichbelonged to the rival Sunni sect,the students and the cleric of the institute allegedly hurled insults at the participants..
The exchange resulted in harsh words and the two groups pelted each other with stones. However, things took a turn for the worse when guns appeared all of a sudden and complete mayhem ensued.
The police failed to control the situation and the army had to be called in. By the time the guns fell silent and curfew was imposed, at least 10 people lay dead, several were injured and property was damaged. Troops kept patrolling the streets of Rawalpindi, while all entry and exit points were sealed.
Curfew imposed in sensitive areas of #Pindi again! Protestors, agitators out on roads..May God help this country and its people!— Sadia Awan (@SadiaAwan01) November 18, 2013
Tension in Pindi, Kohat, Hangu and many other big cities.... arson all around. Govt nowhere to be seen... Alas, what a country!— Tariq_Qayum (@Tariq_Qayum) November 18, 2013
What Caused it?
Violence during the Islamic month of Moharram, when the Shia community mourns the death of their Imam (leader) Hussain, is not a rarity.
People from the sect are a minority in Pakistan and are often targeted for nothing more than their belief. Often, it is the
Pakistani Taliban who take responsibility for such attacks, but this time, it was a clash between common folk, or at least seemed to be on the face of it.
Both Shias and Sunnis blame each other for starting the riot, but what actually transpired may never come to light.
Perhaps it was a third party that wanted to escalate the already tense situation between the two religious sects.
So far at least, there is no way of knowing.
Hassan Zaidi, a filmmaker and a journalist wonders if it was the TTP:
Recall TTP threat to exact revenge for Hakeemullah's death on the Punjab. Was the Pindi incident TTP allies such as ASWJ helping out?— Hasan Zaidi (@hyzaidi) November 16, 2013
Of course, as usual, there are conspiracy theories:
What is being done?
Senior Pakistani journalist, Nasim Zehra says that the intelligence report on the Pindi tragedy ‘is now in the possession of the Punjab chief minister’ (Shahbaz Sharif).
Last year, the people of Pakistan, disappointed with the Government’s response took to the streets to protest against Shia genocide
Syed Talat Hussain, another senior journalist, feels that there weren’t enough measures taken to end the clashes and that is the reason matters escalated.
Timely action in Pindi--- compensation,authentic information,catching culprits---would have doused the fire.— Syed Talat Hussain (@TalatHussain12) November 18, 2013