Nearly 50 injured as devotees clash with police at Pakistan shrine closed due to COVID-19

Policemen on duty tried to push the devotees which led to clashes.

Overnight clashes between devotees and law enforcement personnel at a shrine closed due to coronavirus restrictions left nearly 50 people, including policemen, injured in Pakistan’s Sindh province, prompting authorities to deploy paramilitary troops on Friday morning.

The incident at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan on Thursday night took place after the provincial government announced the closure of all shrines to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The clashes took place after hundreds of devotees, who had gathered in Sehwan for the annual Urs, defied government orders and tried to enter the shrine.

An official at the shrine said that the devotees had gathered at the shrine for the 769th Urs (death anniversary) of Lal Shahbaz Qalander, a revered Sufi saint.

Policemen on duty tried to push the devotees which led to clashes in which some 40 devotees and seven policemen were injured and taken to hospital.

“Many of the devotees had come from outside of Sindh and were staying in and around Sehwan and were perhaps not aware of the government orders when they started gathering at the shrine,” Jamshoro Deputy Commissioner, Capt (retd) Fareeduddin Mustafa said.

Mustafa said the paramilitary rangers were deputed at the Lal Shahbaz Qalander shrine on Friday after the clashes. In 2017, a suicide bomb attack inside the shrine had killed 90 people and left around 300 injured after which the government has upped security measures at the shrine.

Pakistan has reported 678,165 COVID-19 cases so far with 14,613 deaths.

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