Pakistan : Strict security measures across country for Ashura

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SHAFAQNA- Elaborate security arrangements have been made as Ashura is being observed across the country Monday, with cellphone services partially suspended and pillion riding banned. Owners of licensed arms have also been prohibited from carrying or displaying weapons.

All four provinces had recommended to the federal government to direct cellular companies to shut mobile services on 9th and 10th of Muharram, as security agencies believe cellphones may be used by terrorists in the planning and execution of nefarious activities.

Accepting the demand of the Sindh government, the federal government decided to close the mobile phone service in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur districts.

The service will remain closed in Karachi from 6am to 10pm on 9th and 10th of Muharram. In Karachi some areas might not face the closure of mobile phone services.

Sindh home secretary Dr Niaz Ali Abbasi told Dawn that in Hyderabad and Sukkur, the phone service would remain close from 11am to 7pm during the days.

More than 20,000 policemen in uniform and plain clothes and Rangers personnel have been deployed to protect main processions backed by round-the-clock surveillance by over 1,200 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

Security personnel scanned and sealed the areas along the procession route.

BDS staff busy in searching to give security clearance on the occasion of Ashura in Karachi.   - PPI
BDS staff busy in searching to give security clearance on the occasion of Ashura in Karachi. – PPI

Although the Muharram processions have not witnessed any major attack since December 2009 when dozens of mourners fell prey to the Ashura bombing, the authorities believe the sporadic attacks on participants in Majalis this year and consistent killings on sectarian grounds do not allow the law enforcement agency to take job lightly.


Rawalpindi and Islamabad


Unprecedented levels of security were put in place in twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Army troops and Rangers will assist the police of both the cities to ensure peace.

Surveillance cameras, a special-purpose police vehicle with night vision facilities and Wi-Fi-equipped police escort will monitor the Ashura procession all the way.

In line with the Punjab home department’s instructions, special vehicles having the ability to jam explosive and remote controlled time devices will be patrolling the route of Ashura procession.

Cellphone jammers were also installed along the routes of the Ashura processions.

Three layers of security were in place in Rawalpindi, with all link roads along the route of procession sealed off by shipping containers and razor wire and nobody would be allowed to join the procession without security check.

Entry of over 100 firebrand clerics from Shia and Sunni sects had been banned in the two cities to prevent them from inciting sectarian hatred during Muharram.

In Rawalpindi, the hotbed of sectarian turmoil, more than 200 cases have been registered on the charge of violating the ban on use of loud speakers.

RPO Laleka, however, denied that any cleric had been detained by the district administration or arrested by the police on the eve of Ashura. “All clerics are co-operating with police in maintaining peace,” he said.

In line with the Punjab home department’s instructions, special vehicles having the ability to jam explosive and remote controlled time devices will be patrolling the route of Ashura procession.

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) has also been put on high alert to deal with any untoward situation. As many as 250 beds will be available during the high alert.

Islamabad’s Shia community will observe similar rituals. Their rituals will be confined to Sector G-6 of the city, but about 5,000 police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary personnel have been deployed to keep the peace of the federal capital on the occasion.

Federal police have obtained assurances from religious figures of both sects to keep peace of the city and would take action against organizers of Majlis and other rituals in case of violation of agreed route and schedule.

In order to avoid inconvenience and to make the routes of Muharram processions safe the Capital Development Authority has trees the trees and bushes and cleaned the nullahs on the route Muharram procession, according to the CDA Member Administration and Estate Amer Ali Ahmed.

A man cutting tree branches in Islamabad while a private guard watches.  - INP
A man cutting tree branches in Islamabad while a private guard watches. – INP

All the street lights on the routes and around the Imam Bargahs have been checked to provide proper light after dark, the officer informed CDA chief Maroof Afzal.

CDA’s municipal workers have been consistently checking that wall chalking or banners with hatred material do not appear in the city.


Peshawar and DI Khan


The entry points of Saddar Bazaar in Peshawar were sealed and heavy contingents of law enforcers have been deployed to keep watch on the movement of people.

BDS staff busy in searching to give security clearance on the occasion of Ashura, in Peshawar. - PPI
BDS staff busy in searching to give security clearance on the occasion of Ashura, in Peshawar. – PPI

The main of procession of 9th Muharram will be taken out from Imambargah Hussainia Hall, located in Saddar Bazaar. Saddar Bazaar will remain closed on Monday and area residents have been advised to avoid movement and keep their security cards with them in case of emergency.

Security personnel monitor routes ahead of Muharram processions in Peshawar on CCTV cameras. —Online
Security personnel monitor routes ahead of Muharram processions in Peshawar on CCTV cameras. —Online

An official said that close circuit television cameras were installed at prominent places that were thoroughly monitored by the law enforcers to take prompt steps in case of possibility of any untoward incident.

Frontier Constabulary personnel were on standby to backup policemen in performing security duties while members of Mukhtar Force, Imamia Scouts, Wahdat Scouts and Hussaini Scouts helped police in checking the participants of the procession.

In Dera Ismail Khan, police have chalked out a security plan to ensure peace and religious harmony in Muharam, particularly during Ashura.

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, DIG Abdul Ghafoor Afridi said the district was included in the list of the most sensitive areas during Muharram but police were fully alert to thwart any untoward incident. He said that leaders of both Sunni and Shia sects were taken into confidence regarding the security plan.

The DIG said that no change was made in the routes of processions. The mourners would pass through traditional routes, he said, adding that the processions would be monitored through cameras.

The official said that the district was divided into various sectors. He said that around 5,000 law enforcers were deployed to maintain law and order and protect lives and properties of people.

source : http://www.dawn.com/news/1142185/strict-security-measures-across-country-for-ashura

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