ISLAMABAD, Oct 23: Citizens of Islamabad and Rawalpindi are excited about Eidul Azha festivities to begin at the weekend but the administrations and police of the twin cities seem worrying to death about security on the occasion.
After all, only last week, Interior Minister Rehman Malik put them on notice that terrorists could strike on the second most important religious festival for Muslims.
Since Islamabad is considered a prime target, the capital police have written to the local administration to ban Eid prayers in the open, even the spillover from mosques which are inevitable.
Though the authorities in the garrison city of Rawalpindi have no fears about congregations in the open, they have asked for 15 platoons of the paramilitary Punjab Constabulary to reinforce the 3,000 police personnel they would deploy to keep peace on the big festival day.
In addition, the administrations of both the cities have been negotiating with local religious leaders about their vigilante groups taking care of security inside and around the mosques and Imambargahs.
Seven hundred worship places need to be guarded in each city, according to officials.
District Coordination Officer of Rawalpindi, Saqib Zafar, told Dawn that he has asked the clerics of the two main Muslim sects to provide complete personal information about the members of their vigilante teams for the secret police to issue them special ID cards.
“We want to have their bio data because they will be responsible for keeping an eye on strangers and suspicious people on the occasion,” the officer explained after meeting the clerics.
Allama Pir Syed Izhar Bukhari, who led the team of clerics, expressed his own worries to the officer for the Eid day. What if terrorists posing as butchers - who are much sought on the days - enter houses while men are away attending Eid prayers?
That is why DCO Zafar issued a general appeal to the citizens of Rawalpindi to be vigilant on the day as a whole.
Meanwhile, in Islamabad the authorities are brainstorming how to secure the mosques, Imambargahs and the inevitable spillover of the worshippers in the open. The worship places have already been classified by the level of perceived threat to them.
One suggestion is that, if the police agree, the spillover be allowed to offer prayers behind screens called Qanat.
Police sources said the secret police chief of Islamabad had asked for “technical sweeping of sensitive places of worship” by the Bomb Disposal Squad before Eid and search of vehicles moving around them on the Eid day.
More than 2,000 private guards and about 800 policemen would be deployed to provide security to the Eid congregations on Saturday.
Mosques and Imambargahs marked ‘sensitive’, like the Faisal Mosque, Lal Masjid and Imambargahs in G-6 and G-9, will be under special watch.
In the following two days the focus of the police will shift to picnic places in and around Islamabad which are thronged by the merrymakers.