Witnesses said tensions are now high in the city, with Shias protesting the attack which took place in city of Bahawalnagar in the eastern Punjab province and demanding retribution.

Shia Muslims beat their chests in a ritual during a Muharram procession in Peshawar, Pakistan, August 18, 2020
Shia Muslims beat their chests in a ritual during a Muharram procession in Peshawar, Pakistan, August 18, 2020 (AP)

A powerful roadside bomb has exploded among a procession of Shia Muslims in central Pakistan, killing at least three and wounding over 50 people, local police said.

Videos circulating on social media showed police and ambulances rushing toward the site of the explosion. Several wounded people were seen waiting for help along a road in the deeply conservative city of Bahawalnagar in the eastern Punjab province, where the attack took place.

City police officer Mohammad Asad and Shia leader Khawar Shafqat confirmed the bombing. Witnesses said tensions are now high in the city, with Shias protesting the attack and demanding retribution.

Shafqat said the explosion went off while the procession was passing through a congested neighborhood known as Muhajir Colony. He condemned the attack and urged the government to further step up security at such processions, which are ongoing in other parts of the country as well.

Communications in the area were difficult, as authorities had suspended mobile phone service across the country a day ago ahead of the Shia Ashura festival.

Remembering Hussein

The annual commemoration mourns the 7th century death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein, one of Shia Islam’s most beloved saints.

For Shias, the remembrance of Hussein is an emotional event that sees many believers weep over his death at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq. During the Ashura processions, which are held across the world, many participants beat their backs with chains, flagellating themselves in a symbolic expression of regret for not being able to help Hussein before his martyrdom.

Shias are a minority in predominant Sunni Muslim Pakistan. Sectarian violence between the two sects has taken hundreds of lives over the years. 

READ MORE: Pakistan's Khan urges Hazara Shias to bury dead as protest continues

Source: AP