Thousands of Shiite 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 after similar crowds were blamed in neighbouring India for its own surge.
The federal government issued a notice banning mass gatherings commemorating the death of Prophet Mohammad's companion and son-in-law Imam Ali, but local negotiations with religious leaders failed. Dressed in black, devotees chanted slogans and slapped their chests in unison while others whipped themselves with blades.
Members of Pakistan's Shiite sect make up around 20 percent of the Islamic republic's 220 million population. Smaller processions were also held in major cities across the country.
Pakistan is struggling to contain the third wave of infections. Only a small fraction of its population has been vaccinated. Pakistani authorities have largely avoided clamping down on religious activities in recent months.