KARACHI, Nov 22: With terror threat looming over the city ahead of Ashura, the security administration on Thursday closed some four shrines in the city for visitors and the police authorities deployed more than 20,000 personnel to guard 6,200 majalis and 1,500 mourning processions under a revised security plan, it emerged on Thursday.
The officials said the new security plan was devised following Wednesday’s two bomb attacks near an Imambargah in Orangi Town No 5, which revealed flaws in security arrangements coupled with intelligence reports that besides mourning processions also put the Karachi shrines under threat.
“At least four shrines have been closed for visitors,” said additional IG Sindh police Iqbal Mahmood. “The step was taken following intelligence reports that referred to an intercept which warned of terrorist acts at Karachi shrines. Since the decision was made on Thursday, which attracted more visitors than other days, a handful of visitors were allowed entry to shrines after security clearance.”
He said a police contingent was deployed at each shrine backed by Rangers personnel, who were also ensuring restricted movement around the shrines. The city police chief, however, did not explain a timeframe for the reopening of the shrines for visitors but said people could visit the places ‘hopefully after Ashura’.
The shrines closed included that of Hazrat Alam Shah Bukhari on M. A. Jinnah Road near Jama Cloth Market, Misri Shah Ghazi in the Clifton Cantonment area and Shakhi Hasan Shah Bukhari near Kalapul. The landmark shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Clifton was also put on the list of places facing serious threat.
The fresh threat emerged exactly two years after October 2010 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine, killing at least eight people and leaving more than 60 wounded. Minutes after the deadly incident, the provincial administration, in an unprecedented step, had sealed all shrines in the city as a precautionary measure.
The October 2010 attack in Karachi on the shrine of the 8th century saint followed the July 2010 bombings in Lahore when suicide bombers attacked devotees at the shrine of Hazrat Ali Hajveri, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, killing more than 40 people and leaving over 100 injured.
“We have beefed up security after Wednesday’s incidents in Orangi Town and every area where a majlis is organised and a procession is taken out has been declared sensitive,” said the Karachi police chief. “We appeal to the people and community leaders to help strengthen security and be vigilant. A police control room has been set up with 24x7 service, where people can call at 99217704-8 for complaints of any threat, security loophole or suspicious movement.”
On ground, he said, 21,000 city policemen had been deployed for security till Ashura to guard 6,200 majalis and 1,500 processions being held in every district of Karachi.
“Today (Thursday) we are managing 591 majalis and 300 mourning processions in different city areas. For the main Ashura procession on M. A. Jinnah Road, we will deploy 5,000 policemen with Rangers personnel,” added the AIG.