RAWALPINDI: The police on Monday asked traders to close down markets and bazaars for two days beginning Tuesday for Ashura security arrangements. Traders have refused to close shops on Muharram 9.
However, the police claimed the request was mistakenly sent to all shops and markets and was only meant for those on the route of the Ashura mourning procession.
Traders received letters from Ganjmandi police station Station House Officer (SHO) Mehar Mumtaz, asking them to close their shops and markets on Muharram 9 and 10 so the police could make security arrangements.
They have refused to accept these directives, and instead said they would only close shops on Ashura. Rawalpindi Traders Association leader Sharjeel Mir told Dawn: “We will not close the shops on Muharram 9, as it will create problems for shopkeepers who are already facing a financial crisis.”
He said it was not possible for traders to close their shops three times in a week. “We closed the shops on Muharram 7 and have to close down again for two days; the holidays have created problems for shopkeepers.”
Mr Mir said it was the duty of law enforcement agencies to devise security arrangements for traders and provide them with an environment that is conducive to business.
Ganjmandi SHO Mr Mumtaz said the letters were supposed to be sent to shops and markets in all the areas on the route of the Ashura mourning procession, and were delivered to all markets by mistake.
He added: “We asked the traders of Raja Bazaar to close shops early on Muharram 9, as Raja Bazaar and the Ashura procession route will be closed Tuesday night after 9pm.”
A senior City District Government Rawalpindi (CDGR) official told Dawn that the administration and the police will close roads connecting to Raja Bazaar on Tuesday night.
He said two control rooms have been set up, at the District Coordination Office and the Rawal Town Municipal Administration office, both of which will be connected to the Punjab home department.
The CDGR has also installed 400 security cameras on the procession route, he said. The route is six kilometres long and begins from Imambargah Yaadgar-i-Hussain in Satellite Town. It includes Imambargah Balti in Angatpura, Imambargah Col Maqbool Hussain on College Road, Imambargah Hifazat Ali in Bohar Bazaar, Imambargah Chamanzar Colony, Shah Chan Chiragh in Sadiqabad and culminates at Imambargah Qadeemi on Jamia Masjid Road.
“This year, video recording of CCTV camera footage will be done at the control room,” the official said. “In 2013, the footage from the cameras was deleted by people involved in the sectarian riots, so we have made arrangements to preserve the footage in the control room.”
District Coordination Officer Talat Mehmood Gondal will also visit the route on Tuesday evening to inspect the security arrangements, the CDGR official said. He added that 18 landline telephone numbers have been installed around the procession route, since mobile phones will be jammed on Muharram 10.
The official said revenue officials will perform duties at these 18 locations to connect with the control rooms in case of an emergency. The Islamabad Electric Supply Company has also been asked not to conduct any electricity loadshedding on Muharram 9 and 10.
Taleemul Quran seminary to close for three days
The Taleemul Quran seminary on Monday gave its students holidays, and closed down for three days until Muharram 10.
The seminary, mosque and over a hundred shops were torched during sectarian riots on Nov 15, 2013, during the Ashura procession.
The local administration asked the seminary to send its students home for three days this year, and close the seminary until Ashura. The seminary’s administration had sought time to ponder the request with the help of local religious scholars.
“The seminary will open on Saturday. The local administration and police had asked to close the seminary to avoid any untoward situation on Ashura,” said Taleemul Quran administrator Maulana Ashraf Ali.
“We did not close the seminary due to pressure from the government, but did so voluntarily due to the deteriorating law and order situation in the country,” he added.
Mr Ali said in this situation, all people had to play a role in preventing untoward situations and maintaining peace in the city and the country.
“We gave our students vacations and played our role – let’s see what happens from the other side,” he said.
Mr Ali also denied demanding a change to the Ashura procession route, saying the route was a tradition. “We are not against anyone, and want unity and peace.”
Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2016