Pakistani Sunni Muslims brandish guns as they gather outside a hospital following the killing of their leader Maulana Shamsur Rehman, chief of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama (ASWJ) for Punjab province, in Lahore yesterday.
LAHORE: Gunmen killed the provincial leader of a Pakistani Sunni sectarian group yesterday and police deployed to prevent more violence after the anti-Shia faction called for protests.
Sectarian strife has been worsening in Pakistan, where Shia make up about 20 percent of the 180 million population. Maulana Shamsur Rehman, the Punjab leader of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama (ASWJ), was shot while leaving a mosque, said Mahmmed Rafiq from Shafiqabad police station.
Rehman’s group was formed by members of the banned organisation Sipah-e-Sahaba, which had repeatedly said it wanted to expel Shia from Pakistan.
ASWJ leader Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi said in a tweet that the killing of Rehman was part of a “big plot” and that “the situation is now getting out of control.” Another party official tweeted that “party workers should be ready to protest countrywide.”
Around 150 protestors had gathered in the capital of Islamabad, police said, and nearby markets were closed in case of violence.
Extra police were deployed to Shia mosques there and in Pakistan’s financial heart of Karachi. The port city of 18 million people is plagued by sectarian violence. Last month, a clash between a Shia procession and a Sunni seminary left eight Sunnis dead in Rawalpindi and violence spread to two other cities.