PESHAWAR/RAWALPINDI - The fire of Friday’s sectarian violence in Rawalpindi spread to northern districts of Kohat and Hangu where authorities on Monday imposed curfew after two persons, including a police man, were killed and four others injured.

Violence erupted in Kohat when a protest rally, led by the Sunni Muslim organisation Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ), to protest against Rawalpindi incident turned violent after it was fired upon by unidentified persons near an Imambargah. Police and troops later cordoned off the area and ordered markets closed.

The dead were identified as policeman Noor Mohammad and a passer-by Khair Rehman, while the injured included Abdullah, Arshad, Muner and a woman Ayesha. Arshad was referred to Peshawar in critical condition.

However, curfew in Hangu, which caught fire from the Kohat incident, was lifted after two hours. Curfew was also lifted on Monday in the most affected city of Rawalpindi, which is the seat of the Pakistani army and is contiguous to capital Islamabad.

The situation remains tense in the garrison city and Rawalpindi administration said that section 144 would remain imposed while the army would also remain on standby. The authorities had also imposed a mobile phone blackout on the twin cities over the weekend after at least ten people were killed in clashes during the Ashura procession in Rawalpindi on Friday.

According to Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, all facts regarding the tragedy would be made public and the culprits would be brought to justice. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has constituted a special team to arrest the perpetrators of the Rawalpindi tragedy. The team will be led by Additional IG Counter-Terrorism Aftab Cheema.

Unsatisfied by these assurances, protestors shut several markets in Rawalpindi on Monday after lifting of the curfew. Traders, of Madiana Market and other markets of Raja Bazaar, who were in the forefront demanded compensation for the damage to their properties in Friday’s incident. Hundreds of other people also joined the protests to demand immediate action against the culprits.

Minister Sanaullah said the damage assessment committee would submit its report to the government within 48 hours so that timely financial assistance could be provided to the affected traders. Punjab CM on Sunday had constituted an eight-member committee for the purpose.

Addressing a news conference here at the Punjab House, the minister said the provincial government would also bear expenses of the seminary’s reconstruction.

Meanwhile, the intelligence reports predicting clash between the followers of two sects on Ashura day was handed over to the fact finding committee on Monday. According to the reports prepared by Special Branch (SB) and other intelligence agencies, Rawalpindi Commissioner Khalid Masood Chaudhry, RPO Zaheem Sheikh and CPO Bilal Siddique Kamyana were informed in written thrice about the expected clashes at Raja Bazaar.

Confirming death of another victim, the minister said the death toll had reached 10 and the number of injured was 56. Thirty-two of the injured had been discharged from hospitals after necessary treatment but two of the wounded were in critical condition. Rana said bodies of eight victims had been handed over to their heirs after identification.

Kohat police chief Salim Khan Marwat told about the Kohat incident, “The ASWJ activists were rallying against the Rawalpindi tragedy when unidentified gunmen opened fire on the procession from near a Shia mosque in the area, killing two people.“ He said the ASWJ activists retaliated by firing bullets in the air, which sparked tension in the area.

Following the firing and killing of two persons, infuriated people set ablaze dozens of shops at Tirah market and burnt tyres. To maintain law and order, local administration imposed curfew in Kohat city area and people were asked to remain at homes. The law enforcement agencies also launched a search operation in the area.

Police sources said that at least five suspects involved in Kohat firing incident were arrested and heavy arms and ammunitions had also been recovered from their possession.

Owing to the tense situation, all educational institutions were also closed and FA and FSc exams postponed in Kohat and Hangu for an indefinite period of time. According to the controller examinations Kohat board, exams in Parachinar and Karak will be held as per schedule. The Kohat University has also been closed down by the administration for an unspecified period of time.

Keeping in view the tense situation in Kohat, the district administration of neighboring district Hangu also imposed curfew to avoid any mishap in the district. The curfew was lifted after two hours however law enforcement agents and police remained on patrol. Officials said security has been beefed up in Hangu district after unfortunate incident in Kohat but that situation was under complete control.

On the other hand, the fact finding committee has formally started its probe into Pindi incident and the members would visit the site of clash in Raja Bazaar today (Tuesday). According to a source, the committee would also be handed over videos and media footage filmed during the bloodiest clashes between two religious groups. The committee was informed that the district administration was informed beforehand about expected clashes and had been advised to take foolproof security arrangements.

The death of a 30-year-old seminary student, who got injured in Raja Bazaar incident, in District Headquarter (DHQ) Hospital on Monday added fuel to the fire and massive protests were held by tens of hundreds of seminary students of Darul Aloom Taleemul Quran and the traders in various areas of the city. The dead named Hafiz Muhammad Nayyer, son of Tariq Mehmood Mazhar, hailed from Taman area of Chakwal district.

Army and Rangers were called again by district administration to quell unrest in Raja Bazaar and its adjoining areas after the protestors insisting to offer funeral prayer of the deceased at the site of Friday’s clash. The protesters pelted passing vehicles with stones and chanted slogans against the government and police. The mayhem forced the shopkeepers to shut down their businesses.

A heavy contingent of police cordoned off the area. The security forces dispersed the charged mob and blocked all the roads leading to Raja Bazaar, Fawara Chowk, by placing military vehicles, trucks and hand-push carts. Smelling the rat, the district administration also barred the owners of all the petrol pumps in Rawal Division from selling petrol in canes, pet bottles and to motorcyclists to avoid arson by the protesters.

Tempers ran high at the hospital in the morning with the seminary students demanding the dead body to hold funeral prayer at incident site. Traders and shopkeepers on the Benazir Bhutto Road also closed their businesses to express solidarity with the traders of Madina Market and sat idle outside their shops.

Addressing the protestors, Ulema and traders condemned the November 15 carnage and asked the government to arrest the culprits, besides constructing the seminary, mosque and market immediately. They also demanded compensation from the government.

Duty Medical Superintendent (DMS) DHQ Dr Muhammad Ashraf confirmed the death of the seminary student and said that as many 34 of the 40 injured brought to the hospital were discharged after treatment. Condition of three of the remaining six students was critical, he added.

Despite passage of three days, the thick clouds of smoke were still emitting from the rubble of the damaged seminary and the market and Rescue 1122 firefighters have been busy in extinguishing the fire. Darul Aloom Taleemul Quran head Ashraf Ali along with other Ulema and traders representatives as well as a large numbers of female students of Jamia Hafsa visited the incident site.