Islamabad/Peshawar: Sectarian tensions continued to simmer in Pakistan on Monday as curfew was imposed in the northwestern cities of Hangu and Kohat after three persons died in an exchange of fire.
Protests were organised in the garrison city of Rawalpindi near Islamabad over sectarian clashes on Friday that left 10 dead.
The army took control of Kohat and Hangu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and a curfew was clamped in the cities following an attack on an imambargah or Shia prayer hall at Zargaranabad in Kohat district.
Police officer Mazhar Jaan was quoted by the Dawn newspaper as saying that unidentified persons attacked the imambargah this morning. Two policemen and a civilian were killed in an exchange of fire between two rival groups, he said.
Several others were injured and a mob comprising members of a group set on fire several shops in Tirah Bazar.
Activists of the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a front for the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba, had organised a rally in Kohat city to protest the clashes in Rawalpindi.
In the face of mounting tensions, authorities imposed a curfew in Kohat and Hangu and the army took control of both cities.
In Rawalpindi, fresh protests were held after curfew was lifted this morning. Students of a seminary and traders gathered outside Raja Bazar at 11 am and shouted slogans against the administration.
The demonstrations began soon after Punjab Law Minister
Rana Sanaullah`s press conference, during which he assured the public that the government would take swift action against those behind the clashes.
Army and police personnel arrived at Raja Bazar soon after the protests started and all routes leading to it were closed. Vehicles and pedestrians were barred from passing through the area. The local administration banned the sale of petrol for motorcycles.
Soldiers and law enforcement personnel continued to patrol Rawalpindi to avert untoward incidents. Rawalpindi Commissioner Khalid Masood Chaudhry asked people not to pay heed to rumours as the situation was under complete control.
On Friday, curfew was imposed in Rawalpindi and the army was called in after 10 people were killed and over 50 injured in clashes between Sunnis and Shias during a Muharram procession.
The Punjab government has formed a committee to probe Friday`s clashes. Sanaullah said the committee will submit its report in 48 hours.
Media reports said the federal government has asked the Information Technology Ministry and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against anyone who propagates sectarianism through social media or mobile phones.
Social media will be monitored for controversial statements that could lead to sectarian conflict. The FIA was asked to investigate and act against people involved in spreading such statements.
The government acted after fake pictures of alleged victims of the violence in Rawalpindi were circulated on social media.