Devotees defy COVID-19 ban in Pakistan


Thousands of Shia Muslim devotees — many not wearing masks — gathered in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore for a religious procession on Tuesday, fanning fears about the spread of the coronavirus.

The federal government had issued a notice banning mass gatherings commemorating the death of Prophet Muhammad’s companion and son-in-law Imam Ali, but local negotiations with religious leaders failed.

“I have attended this procession every year for as long as I can remember,” said Ali Kazmi, 28, who took part in Lahore, where officials estimated between eight and ten thousand worshippers participated. “They just try to stop Shia mourning ceremonies and processions using different excuses.”

Members of the Shia sect make up around 20% of the Islamic republic’s 220 million population. Smaller processions were also held in major cities across the country.

Pakistan is struggling to contain a third wave of infections, with more than 8,00,000 cases and 18,000 deaths declared.

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