KARACHI: The country has been put on high alert and civil armed forces, backed by the Pakistan Army, have been deployed to ensure a peaceful and incident-free Ashura on Wednesday.
Special security arrangements have been made for Ashura processions and majalis being held today in all the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
While authorities claimed to have taken “foolproof” security measures, they maintained that in view of threats during Muharram, contingency plans had been put in place to deal with any eventuality.
Army, paramilitary and police contingents deployed in ‘sensitive’ districts
The interior ministry, along with the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta), is overseeing the countrywide measures to ensure security on Ashura.
Cellular services in many cities and towns would be suspended on Wednesday on the request of the provinces “for a minimum possible time”, an interior ministry spokesman said.
Besides, a pillion-riding ban is already in place all across Sindh, including Karachi, and Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad.
A state of emergency has been declared in all government hospitals located in the districts deemed “most sensitive”.
Tens of thousands of security personnel, including paramilitary Rangers and Frontier Constabulary, have been deployed and on Tuesday, security forces jointly held flag marches in almost every major city.
Arrangements have been made for the aerial surveillance of Ashura processions in major cities. Law enforcement agencies would also be monitoring the routes of all processions with the help of surveillance cameras.
In Punjab, 10 districts — including Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Jhang, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur — have been declared “most sensitive”.
About 200,000 civil armed forces personnel, mainly police, have been deployed for the security of Ashura processions and majalis in all districts of Punjab, where 32 companies of the Pakistan Army were also deployed.
Similar arrangements have been made in Sindh’s cities and towns for the peaceful observance of Ashura.
Around 50,000 policemen and contingents of paramilitary Rangers would be performing security duties in Karachi, Hyderabad, Shaheed Benazirabad, Larkana, Sukkur and Jacobabad divisions.
Sindh Inspector General of Police (IGP) A.D. Khowaja and Rangers director general Major General Bilal Akbar would personally oversee the overall security arrangements on the day of Ashur.
The Rangers DG told reporters that law enforcement agencies were on high alert to thwart any act of terrorism.
Besides Karachi, five districts of Sindh — Hyderabad, Shikarpur, Khairpur, Sukkur and Jacobabad — have been declared “most sensitive”.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a total of five districts — Peshawar, Hangu, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank — have been declared “most sensitive”.
KP IGP Nasir Khan Durrani told newsmen that mourning processions would be taken out in 12 districts and command posts had already been established there. He said that foolproof security measures had been taken to guard against any untoward incident.
Balochistan police chief Ahsan Mehboob told reporters that Ashura processions would be taken out in 10 towns and cities of Balochistan for which the police had made elaborate security arrangements.
Around 7,000 security personnel have been deployed on the route of main Ashura procession in Quetta and army units would remain on standby to help police and local administration in case of any emergency, he added.
Gilgit-Baltistan Home Secretary Ehsan Bhuta said that foolproof security arrangements had been made in the region for Ashura.
Contingents of police, GB Scouts and Rangers have been deployed for security of Ashura processions in the districts, where cellular service would also be suspended. The processions would be monitored through 285 CCTV cameras.
The Karakoram Highway would remain closed on Ashura, while a state of emergency has been declared in District Headquarters Government Hospital, Gilgit, according to officials.
Similar arrangements have been made in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Cellular service would also remain suspended in Muzaffarabad.
Asif Chaudhry in Lahore, Saleem Shahid in Quetta, Manzoor Ali in Peshawar and Jamil Nagri in Gilgit contributed to this report.
Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2016