• Monday, February 26, 2024

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Thousands march in Pakistan Shiite procession

Shiite Muslim devotees take part in a procession to commemorate the death anniversary of Prophet Mohammad’s companion and son-in-law Imam Ali in Lahore on May 4, 2021. (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

By: RadhakrishnaNS

Thousands of Shiite Muslim devotees- many not wearing masks- gathered in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore for a religious procession on Tuesday (4), fanning fears about the spread of the coronavirus after similar crowds were blamed in neighbouring India for its own surge.

The federal government had issued a notice banning mass gatherings commemorating the death of Prophet Mohammad’s companion and son-in-law Imam Ali, but local negotiations with religious leaders failed.

Religious events staged in India in recent weeks, including the Kumbh Mela attended by millions of pilgrims, have been held responsible for spurring one of the worst crises of the pandemic to date, closely watched by Pakistan with growing anxiety.

“I have attended this procession every year for as long as I can remember,” said Ali Kazmi, 28, who took part in Lahore, where officials estimated between eight and ten thousand worshippers participated.

“They try to stop Shiite mourning ceremonies and processions using different excuses. It is (coronavirus) today, before that it was the issue of security. It’s all excuses.”

Members of Pakistan’s Shiite sect make up around 20 percent of the Islamic republic’s 220 million population. Smaller processions were also held in major cities across the country.

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