RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD: On the basis of intelligence reports about serious security threats, the Punjab government is trying to convince organisers to end the Ashura processions by sunset.
Sources said the presence of sympathisers of the self-styled Islamic State (IS) in different parts of the province had raised the possibility of terrorist attacks.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Punjab Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera has put the Counter-Terrorism Department on high alert, especially its ‘crime scene’ and ‘investigation’ wings to cope with any untoward situation.
The intelligence reports feared that terror groups might target the mourning processions, law enforcement agencies, worship places, ruling party members and media houses.
Islamabad administration is considering suspending mobile network services in parts of the city on Muharram 8 and 9
The local administration and police officials have started meeting the stakeholders to convince them to follow the government directions. So far two to three rounds of talks have been held between the organisers of the processions and the administration officials but without any breakthrough.
“In line with the government instructions, efforts are underway to convince the organisers of Ashura processions to minimise their timings and end the religious gatherings by sunset to reduce the risk of being attacked,” a senior police officer told Dawn requesting not to be named.
Another senior police officer said: “Though there is no sectarian issue this time, we fear a terrorist activity due to the ongoing operations in the tribal areas and other parts of the country.”
The IGP has also directed the police to deploy personnel in three shifts of eight hours each during Muharram.
On the other hand, the district administration and the city police officer also held a meeting with the organisers of churches and discussed security issues with them.
The administrators of churches were directed to deploy security guards, install walk-through gates and use metal detectors for worshipers.
The church administrations were offered arm licences on a priority basis for their security guards.
Cellphone services may be suspended
The Islamabad administration is considering suspending mobile network services in parts of the city on Muharram 8 and 9.
Officials said recommendations were sent by Islamabad deputy commissioner to the interior ministry for approval.
They said that approval was being sought to suspend mobile network services in G-6 and G-7 during the procession. The procession on Muharram 9 will begin at the Markazi Imambargah G-6/2 and will continue down various roads in G-6 before ending back at the Markazi Imanbargah.
Police said that the Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) had designed a traffic plan for the processions taken out on Muharram 8 and 9.
Vehicles and carts will not be allowed to be parked in and around the route of the processions.
The plan for the Muharram 8 procession from Imambargah Jamia Murtaza G-9/4 to Imambargah Imam Sadiq G-9/2 will see street 54, I&T Centre, Zulfikar Chowk, Kohkah turn, Project Mor, G-9 turn, Kashmir Highway, G-10 double road, G-10/3 chowk, street 16, G-9/2, street 11 and Khurram Road closed to people and traffic, police said.
The plan for the Muharram 9 procession will see Kulsum Plaza, Fazl-e-Haq Road, Post Office Chowk, Seventh Avenue loop Blue Area, Seventh Avenue G-7/4, Iqbal Hall Chowk, Lal Masjid Chowk, GPO Chowk and street 14, G-6/2 closed to traffic and people.
ITP officials will be deployed to guide people down alternative routes on both days. In addition, people will be kept informed through ITP radio FM92.4 and the 1915 helpline.
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2015