ISLAMABAD: Processions for 9th Muharram were taken out Friday amid tight security in different cities of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, measures have been adopted to avoid any untoward incident on the climax of the Muharram mourning period — Ashura.
Security plans to ensure the safety of processions are already in place while Ministry of Water and Power has promised uninterrupted supply of electricity on both days.
In Lahore, the central Zuljinnah and mourning procession were taken out from Islampura this morning and will end at the same place later in the night.
Amongst the 12 districts of Punjab — Lahore, Rawalpindi, Jhang, Rahimyar Khan, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Bhakkar, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bahawalnagar, Chakwal and Pakpattan have been declared "most sensitive”, the Inspector General Police (IGP) Mushtaq Sukhera will personally oversee security arrangements from a central control room.
The government will shut down cellular services across the province on the day of Ashura, Oct 24, from 8am onwards. A ban on pillion riding is already in place for both days.
Police sources said that local RPOs and DPOs from Punjab would have the option of shutting down mobile services of areas considered flashpoints.
Traders in Rawalpindi especially those of the sealed off area were advised to close their business on Thursday evening for the Muharram 9 and 10 processions.
Containers placed at Ganjamandi, Banni Chowk, Asghar Mall Road, Pirwadhai, College Road, Gawalmandi, City Saddar Road and Kashmiri Bazaar blocked access to the commercially most thriving district of the inner city.
Some 450 close circuit TV cameras installed along the route of the mourning procession have been operational since Tuesday night.
Rawalpindi DCO Sajid Zafar Dall told Dawn that this year, sectarian clashes were unlikely, but the administration was guarding against the possibility of a terrorist attack on a Shia procession.
Meanwhile in Lahore, police have issued sketch of a terrorist who might attack Muharram processions in the city. The sketch was also released on media for general public with instructions of contacting police and law enforcement agencies upon receiving information or watching the man in question.
Cellular services in Karachi and adjoining areas has started shutting down while there is no traffic on roads as the Sindh government announced both 9th and 10th Muhrram as public holidays.
For the overall security during the month, the provincial government has allocated more than Rs100 million.
According to a recent report in Dawn, a total of 27,942 personnel are deployed in Karachi for Muharram security.
Of these personnel, 18,557 would be static force, 1,661 would be deployed at pickets, 5,724 on police vans and 2,000 as reserve police in the metropolis.
Similarly, 6,294 policemen would be deployed in Hyderabad range; followed by 2,276 in Mirpurkhas, 7,623 in Benazirabad, 9,488 in Sukkur and 10,791 policemen in Larkana range.
Sindh government has declared 1,229 majalis, 384 matmi processions and 188 tazia processions as most sensitive all over the province and there would be a three layer security cordons for processions and majalis.
Related: Ashura attack memories haunt Karachi
A comprehensive security plan has been prepared for Imambargahs and Ashura processions in the province and its capital Quetta.
Speaking at a press conference last week, DIG of Quetta, Imtiaz Shah told media that over 5,000 security personnel, including those from the Frontier Corps and three battalions of army, would be deployed around Imambargahs and along the routes of mourning processions.
Three army battalions would remain on stand-by.
Senior police officers aboard two helicopters would monitor the main processions of Muharram on 9 and 10 while around 2,500 policemen and personnel of law-enforcement agencies have already been deployed at 56 Imambargahs and 14 other places where women’s Majalis are held.
23 Imambargahs in the city had been declared very sensitive.
In Taxila and Wah, where at least 20 processions are considered sensitive, security forces will continue to hold flag marches.
Balochistan has been experiencing incident violence and targeted killings since more than a decade. More than 1,400 incidents targeting the minority Shia and Hazara community have taken place in the province during the past 15 years.
Yesterday, a suicide attacker blew himself outside an imambargah in Bolan’s Goth Chalghari area, killing at least 10 people and injuring many others.
In Peshawar, the main procession for 9th Muharram in Peshawar was taken out from Imam Bargah Hussainia Hall Sadar Road early morning.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police had declared Peshawar, Hangu, Kohat and Dera Ismail Khan as the most sensitive districts for Muharram.
According to a statement issued by the police, 429 Muharram processions will be taken out in the province, while 940 majalis will take place during the month.
The police have identified 129 ‘trouble spots’ on procession routes across the province.
The provincial capital has 67 imambargahs from where 121 precessions will be taken out on 9th and 10th of Muharram.
Entry of Afghan nationals and other irrelevant people in Peshawar is banned while pillion riding is not allowed in the interior parts of the city and along procession routes.
Walkthrough gates have been installed to ensure foolproof security.
Pakistan has a history of attacks on religious processions in Islamic holy month of Muharram, especially on 9th and 10th of the month, claimed by banned militant outfits targeting people belonging to Shia sect of Islam.
Also Read: Muharram security