KARACHI: With mobile phone services remained suspended in various parts of the city, the main 8th Muharram procession culminated safely after passing through its traditional route amid tight security on Sunday.

The procession started in the afternoon from Nishtar Park and ended at Imambargah Hussainian Iranian in Kharadar in the evening. “The mourning procession ended peacefully as no untoward incident was reported,” said DIG-East Amir Farooqi.

He said that 7,000 policemen and 3,000 Rangers personnel were deployed for the security of the procession, which was monitored through CCTV cameras as well as drones.

The DIG observed that there were certain issues of cleanliness on the routes of the procession, which he had highlighted before the district administration and they had promised to lift garbage before the processions of 9th and 10th Muharram.

Law enforcement agencies had taken extraordinary security measures and with the help of the bomb disposal squad and sniffer dogs the entire route of the procession was thoroughly searched. Snipers were also deployed on rooftops of the building from where the procession passed.

The law enforcers had also made arrangements for medical treatment along the route of the procession.

Cellular services suspension

Sindh Home Secretary Abdul Kabeer Qazi said that mobile phone services were suspended only in those areas where 8th Muharram majalis were held and processions taken out in Karachi and other parts of the province.

He said that the mobile phone service was suspended in 484 areas in Sindh, including 245 places in Karachi.

A statement said that the home department requested the interior secretary to direct the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) at regional level in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Shaheed Benazirabad, Mirpurkhas and Larkana to coordinate with the commissioners or DIGs “to address any immediate request for suspension of cellular services in any part of their respective division/city that may be requested considering the instant situation on ground”.

The Sindh government had also sought a similar cooperation from the PTA in case the commissioners, DIGs, decided that the suspension of cellular service was not required in any part of their respective areas considering the situation on ground.

Officials said that the mobile phone service may be suspended on 9th and 10th Muharram at some places in Karachi and other parts of the province particularly along the routes of the Ashura processions.

The provincial government had already imposed a ban on pillion riding from 8th Muharram, which would continue till 10th Muharram. A ban on carrying arms was also in place under Section 144 of the criminal procedure code.

IGP reviews security arrangements

Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam on Sunday held a videoconference at the Central Police Office to review the Muharram contingency/deployment plan. He directed the officers to personally check the security arrangements for big or small processions in Karachi and other parts of the province.

Besides, concrete and extraordinary steps should be taken to implement ban on carrying arms, he added.

The meeting was informed that overall 71,485 policemen, including 10,672 in Karachi, would be deployed for security on Ashura. As many as 1,342 police pickets had been set up in Karachi alone.

According to a police report, total 15,971 majalis, 6,288 mourning processions and 717 Tazia processions would be taken out in Sindh.

It said 5,678 majalis, 668 mourning processions and 421 Tazia processions would be taken out in Karachi during Ashura.

There are total 2,015 Imambargahs in Sindh. Of them, 342 are located in Karachi, 590 in Hyderabad, 138 in Mirpurkhas, 107 in Shaheed Benazirabad, 374 in Sukkur and 464 in Larkana.

Meanwhile, the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen criticised restrictions allegedly created for mourners in Sindh and Punjab and said that police had resorted to baton-charge in some localities.

In a statement, MWM leader Allama Baqar Abbas Zaidi said that the police action in Ghotki and a city of Punjab was unacceptable.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2019