ISLAMABAD: Ashura is being observed on Tuesday with solemnity to pay homage to Imam Husain and other martyrs of Karbala amid strict security to protect mourners against any terrorist attack.
Apart from the security measures, local administrations have placed hospitals and ambulance services on high alert.
The governments of the four provinces, AJK and Gilgit Baltistan, with the help of the centre, have taken adequate measures to ensure security on the day.
The security has become a matter of concern across the country after the suicide attack that claimed 60 lives at the Wagah border on Sunday.
The Punjab police conducted raids in several cities and arrested a number of suspects. A similar action has been taken by the Sindh police after the recent targeted attacks in Mirpurkhas and Karachi.
Apart from police, Rangers and Frontier Corps personnel have been deployed in many cities on the routes of Ashura processions, while the army is on standby in Quetta, Karachi, Sukkur, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Parachinar, Kohat and D.I. Khan and AJK and Gilgit Baltistan.
Since there will be no Ashura procession in the federal capital, police and administration of Islamabad will cooperate with the Rawalpindi administration to carry out checks at all entry points between the twin cities.
Pillion-riding has been banned in many cities, including Karachi, where several cases of cracker and grenade attacks have been witnessed since the advent of Muharram.
Based on the information given by security agencies, the federal and provincial governments have decided to suspend cellphone service at sensitive and selected spots, including the procession routes. There will be no mobile service from 6am to 8pm on Tuesday across Gilgit Baltistan.
The law enforcement agencies and the army will use helicopters in many cities to monitor security.
Police have conducted a survey of procession routes across the country and sealed all shops, houses and buildings on the routes after a thorough check by bomb disposal squads.
The Punjab government has identified 801 flashpoints across the province and declared 288 places as most sensitive in 10 major cities. As many as 135,098 police personnel have been deployed to provide security to 9,997 processions and 37,888 majalis all over Punjab.
Around 25,000 police personnel will discharge duties on Yaum-i-Ashur in Karachi, while an additional force will be acquired from CID, SRP and RRF. The main procession starting from Nishtar Park will culminate at Hussainian Iranian Imambargah, Kharadar, after passing through its designated route, including Saddar and M.A. Jinnah Road.
The Balochistan government has taken extraordinary measures to prevent any act of terrorism on Ashura. It has decided to provide security to around 744 Majalis across the province.
Balochistan has witnessed several sectarian attacks, including deadly bombings on buses of Pakistani pilgrims coming from Iran, and on ethnic Hazara community based in Quetta.
Apart from police, the Anti-Terrorism Force, Frontier Corps and Balochistan Constabulary, which will provide security of processions, the army would be on standby.
A ban on pillion-riding and suspension of mobile phone service is already in place in Quetta.
Meanwhile, more than 6,000 security personnel have been deployed to maintain law and order in Kurram Agency, mainly in Parachinar.
Published in Dawn, November 4th , 2014