With processions commemorating Muharram 9 taken out from various cities on Monday, cellular services remained suspended as a measure to thwart any untoward incident.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had announced on Sunday that mobile phone services would be suspended on Muharram 9 and 10 in specified areas of all the cities across the country.
While the PTA did not confirm exact timings, the cellular services — particularly in areas through which processions pass — are expected to remain suspended from morning till 6pm on both days.
A senior official in the Ministry of Interior said that a specific notification had been issued by the government. Without naming localities, the official said cellular services in all the cities across Pakistan would be suspended in the areas identified and indicated by the district administrations and the police in their respective cities for the safety of mourners during processions.
In Karachi, 263 different processions were taken out to commemorate the sacrifices made on Muharram 9. In light of this, a plan was set by the Karachi traffic police to minimise the impact of roadblocks on the flow of traffic.
As per the plan, on Muharram 9, at 9am, an Alam procession was taken out from Markazi Imambargah, Liaquatabad.
This procession first went to Martin Road Imambargah and thereafter to Nishtar Park, where a Majlis was held.
At about 12 noon, the procession was taken out from Nishtar Park for Hussainian Iranian Imambargah, Kharadar, via the following routes.
The procession began at Nishtar Park and proceeded to Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto Road, Mehfil-i-Shah-i-Khurasan, MA Jinnah Road, Mansfield Street, MA Jinnah Road, Boulton Market, Bombay Bazaar, Kharadar, Nawaz Mahabat Khanjee Road and then to Hussainian Iranian Imambargah.
As soon as the procession started from Nishtar Park, all vehicular traffic coming from the city side was diverted towards Soldier Bazaar Road from the junction of MA Jinnah Road/Dr Dawood Pota Road.
All kinds of traffic coming from the Nazimabad side was diverted towards Lasbela, Nishtar Road and Zoological Gardens.
All kinds of traffic coming from the Liaquatabad side was diverted onto Martin Road towards the Central Jail Karachi.
These vehicles, however, were permitted to proceed upto Central Jail and then proceed via Jamshed Road, Dada Bhoy Noorji Road, Kashmir Road, Sharea Quaideen, Sharea Faisal, Lucky Star, Sarwar Shaheed Road, Fawara Chowk, Shaheen Complex, II Chundrigar Road and Tower.
All kinds of traffic coming from the Stadium Road side proceeded via New MA Jinnah Road. These vehicles were diverted towards Dada Bhoy Noorji Road towards Kashmir Road, Society Light Signal, Shahrah-i-Quaideen to Sharea Faisal.
All kinds of traffic coming from the Super Highway was diverted from Liaquatabad No 10 towards Chowrangi No 2 Nazimabad and proceeded via Habib Bank Chowk, Estate Avenue Road, Sher Shah to Mauripur Road. For the return journey, these vehicles adopted the same route.
All kinds of traffic from the National Highway proceeded via Rashid Minhas Road, Stadium Road, Sir Shah Suleman Road, Hassan Square, Liaquatabad No10, Nazimabad Chowrangi No 2, Habib Bank, Estate Avenue Road, Sher Shah and Mauripur Road. For return journey, these vehicles will also adopt the same route.
No traffic was permitted to proceed towards the route of the procession from Gurumandir (roundabout).
These vehicles were diverted onto Bahadur Yar Jang Road and again onto Khan Bahadur Naqi Muhammad Khan Road. It was declared that under no circumstances will these vehicles be permitted to proceed along Soldier Bazaar Road from the junction of Khan Bahadur Naqi Muhammad Khan Road and Bahadur Yar Jan Road.
All kinds of traffic coming towards the Quaid-i-Azam’s mausoleum via MA Jinnah Road was diverted towards Bahadur Yar Jang Road. No vehicular traffic was permitted to proceed towards Purani Numaish under any circumstances.
All kinds of vehicular traffic approaching Purani Numaish via Shahra-e-Quaideen (except those arriving for participating in the procession having stickers pasted on their windscreens issued from this office) was not allowed to proceed from the roundabout of the Society Office roundabout behind the mausoleum.
All kinds of traffic going towards Saddar and other colonies was not permitted to proceed towards Empress Market from the junction of Preedy Street/MA Jinnah Road, Court Road Chowk and Fresko Chowk when the head of the procession reaches near the crossing of MA Jinnah Road/Mansfield Street.
In Lahore, the procession departed from Pandu Street. Zuhr prayers were offered near Noori Building. In the evening, from Lahore Secretariat it reached near Anarkali police station where Maghrib prayers were offered.
After Maghrib prayers, the procession followed its usual route and reached Khaima-i-Sadat where a majlis was held. Then the procession once again reached Pandu street where it culminated.
The Punjab government had set up control rooms in all districts of Lahore and is monitoring majalis and processions to ensure security arrangements.
According to reports, as many as 33,356 majalis would be held and 8,674 processions would be taken out in the Punjab province during the holy month.
As many as 6,560 Army and 3,120 Rangers personnel whereas 232,328 police officials and 138,335 volunteers are performing duties for security.
The district administration has decided to close off the route for the Muharram 9 mourning procession after Asr prayers.
Two processions will be taken out in the city. The first, which departed from the same location, will reach its destination, Imambargah Jamia Isna Ashri at 10pm. The second will depart from Imambargah Moosa Kazim at 12 in the night and will culminate at the same venue at 5am.
Traders in Raja Bazaar and nearby areas have been told to close their markets, and the Taleemul Quran seminary has announced a two-day holiday for its students.
The administration turned down a request from traders to close down Raja Bazaar and other markets at night so they could return home easily.
The district administration, meanwhile, has asked the Taleemul Quran seminary to close for four days to avoid a situation similar to the violence in 2013, when the seminary, mosque and more than 100 shops were burned down and imambargahs were damaged on Ashura on Nov 15.
However, the seminary gave its students two days off, and will be shut during the procession.
Deputy Commissioner Ali Randhawa told Dawn that the district administration and local police have made arrangements to maintain the peace in Muharram.
He said loudspeakers are not allowed in the district under the National Action Plan, particularly during Muharram and for Friday congregations. Local police and administration officials will remain at the Raja Bazaar mosque to avoid any untoward situation, he said.
He said arrangements have been made to avoid a situation similar to 2013, and religious scholars asked to help the administration and police maintain the peace have assured their support.