Pakistan orders probe into sectarian violence

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Pakistan on Sunday ordered an inquiry into sectarian violence in the garrison city of Rawalpindi that killed nine people, injured 60 and sparked clashes around the country, officials said.

Fighting erupted on Friday in the garrison-city, which neighbors the capital Islamabad, when a procession by Shiite Muslims to mark the most important day of the mourning month of Muharram coincided with a sermon at a nearby Sunni mosque.

The groups attacked each other, TV cameramen and security forces, firing gunshots.

Rawalpindi has been under nearly complete curfew since the incident, which saw a large number of troops deployed there as well as in the southern city of Multan and Chishtian town to keep the peace.

Judge Mamoon Al-Rasheed of the Lahore High Court will head the probe, a court official told AFP.

Meanwhile, Shahbaz Sharif, who is the chief minister of the Punjab province where the violence occurred, held talks with religious scholars in Rawalpindi and discussed compensation for the families of those killed, state television reported.

Residents are now facing a shortage of food, as the curfew was lifted for only three hours late on Saturday when no shops were open.

“All shops, bakeries and restaurants are closed, the roads are deserted and I am running out of food and other essential items now,” Shafiq Ahmed, a resident of the Satellite Town district told AFP.

“Last night the curfew break was announced abruptly and only a few people came out of their homes, but they found closed markets and returned empty handed,” he added.

Mohammad Shehzad, another resident, said that he bought food every Sunday, but because of the curfew everything was shut and he was prevented by police and troops from going out.

Pakistan is rife with sectarian clashes, with Sunni militant groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban often attacking gatherings by Shiites, who constitute some 20 percent of the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population.

Pakistan had deployed heavy security all across the country for 10th of Muharram on Friday -- which is the death anniversary of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed -- to avert any terrorist attack on the mourning processions of Shiites.

The Islamic month of Muharram lasts until December 5 this year and is a particularly fraught time.

Hussein was killed by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD and his death in Karbala in Iraq is mourned across the world by Shiites every year.