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Shiite muslims beating their chests during a religious procession in Quetta

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 had 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.

Religious events staged in India in recent weeks, including the Kumbh Mela attended by millions of pilgrims, have been held responsible for spurring one of the worst crises of the pandemic to date, closely watched by Pakistan with growing anxiety.