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Low-key Ashura

November 22, 2012

In a week since the commencement of Muharram, at least 16 lives have been lost to targeted sectarian attacks on Imambargahs in Karachi and Rawalpindi. In addition, there have been reports of bombs being defused and removed from sensitive areas in the run up to Ashura. This, in spite of the government’s restrictions and bans on the use of mobile phones and motorbikes, among other preventive security measures.

It is clear that given the current security situation of the country, it would be wise to remain cautious during a sensitive period such as Ashura. There have been suggestions to curb the threats of attacks on Muharram processions by taking alternate routes that comprise roads which are less frequented and congested. Meanwhile, some officials have also urged people to try and remain indoors and hold their religious gatherings away from sites that are commonly targeted by assailants, especially in the wake of sectarian violence.

Is it wrong, then, for officials to suggest that processions be kept low-key affairs and in smaller numbers? There remains a great deal of respect towards the religious zeal and emotions of Shias during Muharram, however, would it be better to take preventive measures during rallies and processions, especially when thousands of innocent lives are at stake?

Would indoor gatherings, lesser number and smaller sizes of processions help avert threats that are known to lurk on such religious events?

The number of attacks and deaths that have occurred during these seven days is already close to the figures from last Muharram and with the increasing number of threats and bombs being found, would it not be sensible to try and lessen the damage by acting cautiously?