Tens of thousands of mourners attended the funeral of a hardline Pakistani cleric in Lahore on Saturday. They defied a government ban on large public gatherings in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases in the country.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi, 54, died of cardiac arrest on Thursday. Some unconfirmed reports claimed he died of COVID-19.
A few days ago, Rizvi was leading a protest march to Islamabad. The march was against the publication in France of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Daily coronavirus infections have risen in Pakistan this month. The government banned big events and meetings. The country is witnessing a “second wave” after a three-month lull in cases.
Official data released on Saturday showed 2,843 people had tested positive for the virus. Forty-two 42 had died during the last 24 hours – both figures the highest for a day since July.
Funeral & COVID-19
Meanwhile, despite the coronavirus curbs, tens of thousands turned out to mourn Rizvi. Organizers of the funeral said the government had not told them to limit the gathering.
Government officials did not respond to a request for comment about the funeral. The funeral wreaked havoc in Lahore. Cellphone services and many roads remained blocked for security reasons.
An official claimed that close to 200,000 people were present at the event.
The gathering was so large that Rizvi’s coffin could not be carried through the crowd to the site set up for the ceremony. Moreover, it had to be positioned on a nearby bridge for the prayers, a Reuters journalist said.
The prayers were led by his son Saad Hussain Rizvi, who has been named the new TLP chief.
Known for his fiery sermons, Rizvi headed the Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the cleric led a march joined by thousands of protesters to Islamabad. Moreover, it blocked the main entry road for hours and saw demonstrators clash with police. Many people questioned if the government had surrendered and accepted the demands of the TLP after a clash.
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