Sectarian violence kills 15 in Pakistan
Deadly Sunni-Shia clashes in Punjab
Mourners attend the funeral of Maulana Akbar Saeed Farooqui, ASWJ activist who was shot dead in Karachi
Police arrested 31 people on Sunday following sectarian clashes between a group of radical Sunnis and members of the minority Shia community on Friday that left at least 15 people dead in central Pakistan.
The violence flared in Punjab province’s Bhakkar district during a rally by the hardline Ahle Sunnat Waljamaat (ASWJ), protesting against the killing of one of their activists.
“Six people were initially killed after the armed clash in Kotla Jam,” said district police chief Sarfraz Falki.
Hours later, another 22 people were kidnapped at gunpoint. Five of them were found dead on Saturday.
Media reports claimed three more bodies were recovered on Sunday, claims which were denied by Falki.
Authorities initially imposed a 24-hour curfew in Kotla Jam and the nearby towns of Darya Khan and Panj Gareen to stem the violence.
“We have now lifted the curfew but have banned public gatherings and displays of arms,” Falki told reporters on Sunday. “Police operations will continue until things return to normal.”
Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has ordered an investigation into the killings.
Elsewhere, in a second attack on Friday, three worshippers were killed in a drive-by shooting outside a Sunni seminary on the outskirts of Islamabad.
Shabih Ahmed, a senior police officer, said the attack took place following night prayers.
On Sunday, two gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed a Sunni cleric in Pakistan’s commercial capital of Karachi. The victim was identified as Maulana Akbar Saeed Farooqui, a ASWJ spokesman.
According to police, he was shot twice in the head while he was returning from a rally protesting the Bhakkar clash. Police suspect Shia's were behind the latest attacks.
The ASWJ has called for countrywide protests.
The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), an umbrella group of Muslim clerics and scholars, has called for a probe into the Shia-Sunni killings.
“We demand that the government conduct a judicial inquiry into the Bhakkar tragedy,” the PUC said.
The violence occurred a day after Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the new Pakistani government to address serious human rights issues.
“Since 2012, well over 650 Shia Muslims have been killed in targeted attacks across Pakistan, the majority from the Hazara community in Balochistan province, HRW said.
Sunni militant groups, such as the ostensibly banned Lashkar-e Jhangvi, operate with widespread impunity across Pakistan. The government should apprehend and prosecute those responsible for attacks on the Shia and other groups at risk, HRW added.
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