Pakistan deploys 10 000 troops to prevent sectarian violence

2015-10-14 18:42
In this 2014 AFP file picture, Pakistani Shi’ite Muslims flagellate themselves during the holy Islamic month of Moharram.

In this 2014 AFP file picture, Pakistani Shi’ite Muslims flagellate themselves during the holy Islamic month of Moharram.

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Islamabad - Pakistan is deploying about 10 000 troops and 6 000 members of the paramilitary to prevent sectarian violence during the holy month of Moharram, the interior minister said on Wednesday.

Moharram, which begins on Thursday and sees Shi'ites hold gatherings and processions to mourn the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussain, is frequently marred by sectarian violence, which has risen markedly in recent years.

Clashes between Sunnis and Shi'ites led to at least 11 deaths two years ago in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, close to the capital Islamabad.

"We have adopted a pro-active strategy like previous years and about 10 000 personnel from the army and another 6 300 from civil armed forces, including Rangers and Frontier Corps, will be deployed across Pakistan for security during the month of Moharram," Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told a press conference.

Sectarian violence - in particular by Sunni hardliners against the Shi'ites that make up roughly 20% of Pakistan's 200 million people - has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade.

In July the leader of an anti-Shi'ite group behind some of Pakistan's worst sectarian atrocities was killed in a shoot-out with police, along with 13 other militants.

Malik Ishaq and his fellow Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants, including senior commanders, were shot dead in in Punjab.

And Islamic State militants were behind a brutal attack that killed 45 Shi'ites in Karachi in May, a Pakistani official told AFP on Monday, despite the government's long-held stance that the jihadist group does not have a presence in the country.

The worst atrocities, however, have been in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, home to about 200 000 Shi'ites.

Shi'ite gatherings and processions during Muharram mark Hussain's martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala, Iraq, in 680 AD.

Hussain is equally revered by Sunnis, but hardliners oppose the public mourning of his martyrdom.

Read more on:    pakistan

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