Over 300 devotees booked for rioting, clashing with police at Laal Shehbaz Qalandar’s shrine

SEHWAN: Police have registered  vandalism case against 300 devotees after serious clashes between security officials and visitors over the closure of the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine.

The shrine’s closure, ordered by the Sindh government as a containment measure amid rising coronavirus cases in the country, coincided with the saint’s 769th annual Urs, held from the 18th to the 20th of Shabaan (April 1-3).

The provincial government had already announced the closure of all shrines, public places and eateries in the province for a period of 10 days and cancelled the Urs of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. A large number of devotees nonetheless gathered at the shrine on Thursday to pay their customary respects to the widely revered Sufi saint.

According to the media, devotees who had arrived from Punjab to attend the Urs turned hostile after they were prevented from entering the shrine.

The flash-point came when a few of the devotees were reportedly allowed inside the shrine to pay homage while others were forbidden to enter.

This triggered a clash between the devotees and the police, with the latter using force to stop the advancing crowd from heading towards the shrine’s main entrance.

During the scuffle, the mob broke down barriers and set on fire several vehicles, including motorcycles.

This followed a free for all, and a large group managed to tear open the main door of the shrine and make their way inside. A couple of policemen were among the scores of people injured in the clash at the shrine.

Following the clash, the paramilitary Sindh Rangers took control of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine. Security arrangements were then tightened around the shrine to avert any future incident