RAWALPINDI, Dec 28: Police in plainclothes have been given the task to search for terrorists listed in the Counter Terrorism Department’s (CTD) Red Book in congregations and mourning processions scheduled to start from January 2.
“The Punjab government has directed the divisional police chiefs to make fool-proof security plans. Plainclothes policemen have been shown photographs of wanted terrorists so they can ensure that they are arrested when spotted,” a senior police official told Dawn.
“Punjab Home Department received intelligence reports last week that terrorists are planning to target congregations and processions in the province,” said the senior police officer who works with the Counter Terrorism wing on the request of anonymity.
These high-profile suspects include those implicated in former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, attacks on General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, the suicide attack on the Inter-Services Intelligence office in Multan and the suicide attack on a Pakistan Air Force bus in Sargodha.
“We cannot take any risk this time as a procession has already been hit by terrorists in Dhoke Syedian on seventh Muharram in which 24 people were killed,” he added.
The Punjab government’s plan is to get divisional police chiefs contact local religious organisations, obtain details of their programmes and deploy adequate security force for proper surveillance of these venues.
The district police chiefs across the province have been asked to place their demand in number of platoons of Punjab Constabulary (PC) and Elite Force (EF) to reinforce the local police during Chehlum, and have also been given permission to impose curfews around the venues of religious activities.
Furthermore, the Punjab government has requested the Federal Ministry of Interior to provide two helicopters for air surveillance of mourning processions in Rawalpindi and Lahore.
When Dawn contacted Regional Police Officer Mohammad Zubair on the issue, he replied that extra security measures are always taken on such occasions as it is a continuous process.
“Joint Task Teams comprised of counter terrorism department, special branch and police officials have been working on the terrorists described in the Red Book and the JTT has been checking them. If anyone of them is seen anywhere, he will be arrested,” he claimed.
Zahid Hussain, senior journalist, opined: “It is good to take security measures for participants of processions and majalis. But the government needs to do much more to counter sectarian violence in the country.”
“It should not be limited to a one time procession – rather it needs to be in the form of a clear strategy to eliminate sectarian violence in the country,” he added.