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Probe ordered into Rawalpindi sectarian violence, curfew lifted

18 November, 2013

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RAWALPINDI/LAHORE: Pakistan on Sunday ordered an inquiry into sectarian violence in Rawalpindi that killed 10 people, injured dozens and sparked clashes around the country, officials said.

Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial constituted a one-member judicial commission to probe the sectarian violence, as authorities lifted the curfew that was imposed following the unrest.

Judge Mamoon Rasheed of the LHC would head the probe, a court official told AFP.

Fighting erupted in the garrison city on Friday when a procession of Shias marking Ashura coincided with a sermon at a nearby Sunni mosque.

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

According to District Coordination Officer Sajid Zafar, nine people were killed in the clashes.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif held talks with religious scholars in Rawalpindi and discussed compensation for the families of those killed, state television reported. The chief minister also formed a seven-member fact-finding committee to probe the unrest.

Authorities also sealed the Red Zone area in Islamabad while the army was still patrolling city roads.

Earlier, residents said they were 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 Satellite Town said.

"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.

Muhammad 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.

Cell-phone services, which were suspended following the unrest, were also restored in the twin cities.

Also on Sunday, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan met religious leaders, Punjab ministers, police and intelligence authorities to bring the situation under control in Rawalpindi and other towns of Punjab, state media reported.

Officials said Nisar telephoned JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, JUI's Maulana Samiul Haq and other religious leaders and discussed the situation with them. He also urged clerics to play their role for restoration of peace in Rawalpindi.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman called for setting up an independent judicial commission to probe the incident. The minister assured the JUI-F leader that the culprits would soon be brought to justice.

The interior minister also presided over a high-level meeting in Islamabad to review the post-violence situation.

End.

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