RAWALPINDI, Nov 19: Though life seemed to be gradually returning to normal in the city areas, a sectarian clash in the cantonment areas on Tuesday evening once again sparked tension between the two groups. No casualties were however reported.
Traditionally, local Shias bring out a mourning procession from Imambargah Qasar-e-Abu Talib to Imambargah Sajjad at Tench Bhatta on Muharram 15, and tried to take out a procession on Tuesday as well.
However, tension started when participants gathered at a house to take out the procession while police personnel tried to close down shops along the procession’s route to avoid any sectarian clash.
Local traders, along with residents living near Khadijatul-Kubra mosque, refused to comply with these orders and tried to stop the procession from proceeding. Both groups pelted each other with stones and fired in the air.
The administration immediately called the army to control the situation.
The troops cordoned off the area adjacent to the Army Medical College and Military Hospital. They also closed the shops and restricted the movement of people.
According to an official of the Race Course police, “Over 200 people from the mosque and participants of the procession chanted slogans against each other and pelted stones.
Gunfire was also exchanged but no one was injured as both parties had taken cover in the narrow streets,” he said.
Following the tension, the local police also brought religious scholars to the area to cool down the high tempers.
“The police and two Ulema from Bakramandi managed to calm down the residents,” Raja Musaddiq, SHO Race Course police station, told Dawn.
He said, “The traders said their shops had been closed for the past four days and it would be difficult to shut them down again. However, religious scholars managed to convince them to keep their shops closed.”
SHO Raja Musaddiq said the organisers of the mourning procession were requested on Monday to postpone the procession for a few days just like other processions in the city.
However, these requests were not entertained and tension ensued.
Apart from this incident, the downtown area remained peaceful as shops, banks and government offices remained open.
Routine life was observed in the garrison city except at Raja Bazaar, College Road and Narankari Bazaar where roads were closed for public to avoid any possible clash.