Police arrested 28 people as a violent clash between followers of two rival schools of thought over the possession of a mosque in Karachi's Mehmoodabad area on Saturday night claimed the life of a young man and resulted in bullet injuries to three others, officials said on Sunday.
The mosque was handed over to one of the groups — from the Deobandi school of thought — under the orders of the Sindh High Court in the presence of the court’s nazir, who stayed at the mosque till evening prayers on Saturday to ensure a smooth transition.
“The transition occurred smoothly in the day but at night, at around 11pm, around 150-200 men from Sunni Tehreek and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) attacked the men present inside the mosque,” DIG East Amir Farooqi told Dawn.
Both sides resorted to fist fights and attacked each other with sticks, the officer said, adding that "some attackers were armed as well".
At least four persons sustained bullet wounds in the clash and were shifted to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) where doctors pronounced one Kashif Hussain, 35, as dead on arrival, officials said.
The injured persons who were admitted for treatment have been identified as Yamin Ismail, 30; Adeel Afzal, 30; and Raja M Hafeez, 44.
JPMC Director Dr Seemin Jamali said two of the injured persons were shifted to the operation theatre as they sustained abdominal wounds while the third was discharged after being administered first aid on Sunday.
Baloch Colony SHO Naveed Soomro, in whose jurisdiction the incident occurred, told Dawn that the dispute between both groups over the possession of the mosque had been going on for more than 30 years.
He recalled that the high court had given judgement in favour of the Deobandi group about two to three years ago and on recent directions of the court, the police in presence of the court nazir handed over the possession of the mosque to the said group at around 4pm.
The officer said the police have registered two separate First Information Reports (FIR) against the alleged attackers and detained 28 persons.
One FIR was registered on behalf of the state through a Baloch Colony police officer on charges of rioting, etc. in which 21 people have been arrested.
The second FIR was registered on a complaint of the trustee of the mosque under charges of terror, etc. in which seven suspects have been apprehended.
The SHO said the victims belonged to the Barelvi school of thought and the family members of the deceased wanted to lodge a third FIR on charges of murder against the trustees of the mosque. The police were waiting for their relatives to register the case.
SHO Soomro said police had reached the site when the firing had already stopped. He said they were trying to determine as to whether the young man died of bullets fired by the attackers or if the persons inside the mosque were also armed.
An uneasy calm prevailed in parts of Mehmoodabad following the violent clash. The officer claimed, however, that the situation was under control and no untoward incident was reported on Sunday.
The possession of mosques in the metropolis has remained a bone of contention between supposed rival sects, which sometimes takes an ugly turn.
Thousands of mosques have also been built on ‘encroached lands’, according to a report by Karachi police.