Stampede caused due to negligence: Pak
The tragedy occurred when some 50,000 people gathered at a mosque for a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Prophet's birth.india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 15:30 IST
Pakistani authorities on Monday blamed possible negligence for the worst stampede in the country's recent history, in which 29 women and children were killed at a religious gathering.
The tragedy occurred when some 50,000 women and children gathered at a mosque for a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammed's birth in Karachi late on Sunday.
Salahuddin Haider, a spokesman for the government of southern Sindh province, told the agency that an investigation had begun and that the families of those killed would get 100,000 rupees (1,667 dollars) in compensation.
"The probe will determine if it was an organisational failure," Haider said. "It appears a case of mismanagement and not any criminal act" such as a bomb or gun attack.
Officials said the stampede happened when a girl fell down the stairs as women left the gathering that was organised by Dawat-i-Islami, a moderate Sunni Muslim party, at its Faizan-e-Madina mosque in the city's eastern district.
"Some women stopped to rescue the girl, thousands of others following them tried to leave the venue, resulting in the stampede," organisers said.
An official told the agency on condition of anonymity that said the organisers closed the entry gate and only opened a small gate for the "huge crowd" to leave the mosque.
Witnesses said scores of people rushed to the scene to help the women, but armed guards prevented men from entering the women-only gathering.
The area was littered with hundreds of pairs of shoes and sandals, bags and purses.
However Dawat-i-Islami party spokesman Nadeem Qadri blamed the authorities for closing off some of exit points to the mosque because of earlier construction work.
"These congregations are nothing new in the city. For the last 15 years we held it every week. The incident took place because the government had closed three entry and exit points because of a newly constructed park," he said.
The crowd on Sunday was unusually large as it was came just ahead of the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammed's birth being observed in Pakistan on Tuesday.
He denied rumours that a bomb blast or gunfire had triggered panic in the crowd. "It was stampede and nothing else," he told the agency.
Provincial spokesman Haider said 29 deaths had been confirmed, seven of whom were children. Some 30 others were injured, 15 of them were in a serious condition.
Haider said the government might allow more entry and exit points at Faizan-e-Madina for its weekly congregations. "It was an unfortunate incident and we don't want such incidents again," he said.
Funeral prayers for six women and three children were held Monday while Islamic burial of others was scheduled in the afternoon, Dawat-e-Islami spokesman, Qadri told the agency.
Sindh chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim expressed grief over the loss of lives and ordered an inquiry into the incident, an official statement said.
In March 2004, a stampede sparked by a power blackout at a crowded Shiite mosque in northwestern Parachinar town left 13 women and children dead.