ISLAMABAD: Unprecedented security arrangements have been made in cities and towns across the country, particularly in the four provincial capitals and Islamabad, to ward off any untoward incident during the observance of Ashura, the day of martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA), on Friday.
Army, police and paramilitary personnel have been placed on high alert and deployed at sensitive places, particularly in Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, Hangu, Gilgit, Jhang, Bahawalpur, Bhakkar and other cities and towns of southern Punjab.
The arrangements appear to be stricter this year because of threats posed by militants in the wake of killing of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone attack in North Waziristan and a member of Taliban’s Haqqani group, Nasiruddin, in Islamabad.
After the peaceful observance of the 9th of Muharram on Thursday, the federal and provincial governments have directed the authorities to step up vigilance on the Ashura day to thwart any terrorist activity.
According to security officials, most of the roads leading to bazaars, cantonment areas, Imambargahs, important buildings and residences of VIPs all over the country will remain closed throughout the day.
In some cities, police directed transporters not to bring their vehicles on the road. The authorities have also decided to keep private vehicles at a considerable distance from the routes of main processions. Special parking lots have been set up. Pillion-riding has already been banned in many cities for the 9th and 10th of Muharram.
The routes of main Ashura processions have been sealed in some cities and walk-through gates have been put in place. Mourners will be allowed to join the processions only after a thorough body search by security personnel and volunteers.
Rangers and other security personnel will also be deployed on roofs of buildings and houses along the routes of processions and no-one will be allowed to witness processions from rooftops of commercial and residential buildings. Besides, close-circuit TV cameras have been installed at important places.
Talking to reporters after reviewing security arrangements in Lahore on Thursday, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that no-one would be allowed to participate in the processions without security check. He said four helicopters would assist the administration and monitor the progress of the processions. About 4,000 policemen will be on duty on the Ashura day. In Islamabad, special gadgets have been installed and people will be asked to swipe their national identity cards before joining processions. A special software has been developed by the capital city administration to check the identity cards.
Army troops are being deployed in Karachi as a back-up arrangement at the request of the Sindh government. Troops will also be deployed in Hangu and D.I. Khan.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has directed the divisional and district administrations to take effective measures to maintain law and order and ensure security of citizens on Friday. He issued the directives to commissioners and deputy commissioners through a video conference from the Chief Minister’s Secretariat in Peshawar.
The commissioners informed the chief minister about security and measures taken to avert any unpleasant incident. The D.I. Khan commissioner said army troops had been deployed in some areas of the district to help the civil administration.
The chief minister directed the Kohat commissioner to make effective security arrangements in Hangu district with special focus on possible threats of terrorist activities from adjoining areas and mountains.
In Rawalpindi, some 6,000 security personnel will be on duty. There will also be surveillance of processions.
APP adds: An official of the Islamabad administration said that over 5,000 personnel of police and law-enforcement agencies would be on duty on the Ashura day. Rangers have set up a quick response force and surveillance cameras have been installed along the routes of the main processions.
He said rescue teams would also remain vigilant round the clock. About 400 policemen in plainclothes will be on duty with processions and at the venue of congregations in sensitive places.
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