ISLAMABAD, Dec 23: Not taking chances after a local church received a threatening letter, the capital police are stepping up their security measures for Christmas and deploying personnel around churches.

More than 300 policemen will man churches in Islamabad and worshippers would be allowed to enter only after undergoing a special check, a senior Islamabad police official said.

He said walk-through gates will be installed at the entrances while worshippers will be searched through metal detectors and thoroughly frisked.

Our Lady of Fatima Church, located in Sector F-8, had received an anonymous letter on November 14, in which the church authorities had been threatened of an attack for organising a prayer service for Malala Yousafzai.

Father Rehmat of Fatima Church while talking to Dawn confirmed that they had received a threatening letter, adding that the police had been informed but no arrests were made.

Station House Officer (SHO) of Margalla Police Station Irshad Abro said the police were investigating the case but so far had not received any credible information as to who was behind the threats.

Under the security arrangements, greenbelts near churches would be combed and special police squads — Mobile, Eagle, Falcon — would patrol neighbourhoods around churches, the police official said.

Besides, police would also be deployed at public places including parks. Security has been tightened at entry and exit points of the capital and special checking had been ordered for the occasion, added the police official.

Special security arrangements are also being taken in the backdrop of a church burnt down in September 2012 in Mardan after the release of a blasphemous movie on Youtube.

It may also be mentioned that in March 2002, five people were killed in a grenade attack during a church service in Diplomatic Enclave.

Meanwhile, about the church ceremony, William Pervez, who belongs to a non-government organisation, said service would be held around 11pm on December 24 at Fatima Church followed by another one on the morning of December 25. The services would be bi-lingual: English and Urdu.

“There is St Thomas Church in Sector G-7 in which the same kind of service would be held. Another church in the Diplomatic Enclave would also have a service but due to security reasons, entrance would be restricted,” he said.

TAXILA: Christmas arrangements in Taxila and Wah are also in full swing.

Most members of the community are employed in various defence industries and all of them received their salaries in advance. As a result shopping centres in Lalarukh, Nawababad, Aslam Market and Mughal Market were packed with Christmas shoppers.

“Every year we plan to complete our shopping well ahead of Christmas, but we always end up roaming around shops and don’t buy till the last minute,” said Shamim Samul.

Another Christmas shopper, Ruth Gill, said her family loved to shop for Christmas as it was part of the tradition.

Alvin Masih, who was busy in shopping at a shopping centre in Lalarukh with his family, said: “We buy gifts, candles and items to decorate Christmas trees.”

ATTOCK: Churches around Railway Road and Jail Road have been decorated with lights and Christmas colours — red and white. The community members are busy rehearsing tableaus, carols and songs to mark the occasion.


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