RAWALPINDI: The Punjab home department has asked divisional police chiefs across the province increase security around churches on New Year’s Eve.

This includes arranging three tiers of security cover around all churches, as well as stepping up measures to protect foreign diplomatic missions and staff, Christian missionaries and NGOs. Markets and shops around churches may also be closed at the time of New Year’s services and searched for any objectionable or dangerous material.

The heightened security measures have been ordered in light of increased threat perceptions in the country. Organisers of New Year’s services and other religious minorities’ congregations should also be engaged and informed of the security requirements and the prevailing security situation, according to the home department’s guidelines.

The availability of bomb disposal squads and their communication with district wireless control should also be ensured.

Heightened security measures issued in home dept guidelines due to increased threat perception

Abandoned vehicles near the venues of programmes or events will be removed immediately, and police and organisers will ensure that women attending services and other celebrations at churches undergo security checks.

There should be three tiers of security cover for all churches, multiple points for security checks and scanners, the guidelines said. Vigilance must be at ‘high alert’ and divisional superintendents of police should monitor all security arrangements regularly. In addition, special measures should be taken to check street harassment on New Year’s Eve.

Sharpshooters should be deployed on rooftops around important churches during special services, and there should be extensive police patrols in markets and public places, while Dolphin Force Muhafiz squads should be assigned to assist the police, the guidelines added.

The ban on display of arms should be enforced across the board, and there should be a strict check on firing into the air and letting off fireworks.

In addition, the police’s Special Branch has been directed to screen churches and venues of services.

The Punjab police have been told to activate all tiers to utilise intelligence information and maintain liaison with federal intelligence agencies as well.

Traffic

The home department has also ordered strict legal action against wheelies and motorcycle stunts. A taskforce led by the chief traffic officer (CTO) will ensure checks and patrols on main roads to prevent young people from engaging in this activity.

The City Traffic Police have made a separate traffic plan to deploy 300 traffic police officials on New Year’s Eve to check dangerous driving. CTO Mohammad Bin Ashraf has also constituted special squads to check underage driving, vehicles with tinted windows, unregistered vehicles and vehicles without registration plates.

Health services

The health department has been directed to designate hospitals on standby and ensure that the requisite amount of staff, medicines and other essentials are available.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2019