Pak authorities step up security measures during Muharram
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 08, 2010, 16:27
Islamabad/Lahore: Pakistani authorities have put in place tight security measures and deployed thousands of policemen and paramilitary personnel to avert law and order problems during the Islamic holy month of Muharram, which has been marred by sectarian and militant violence in past years.

Over 22,000 policemen have been deployed in the eastern city of Lahore to protect the people, 'majlis' (gatherings) and religious processions during Muharram, which began today.

Law enforcement agencies have arrested over 200 suspects during the past few days.

Lahore police spokesman Niyab Haider told PTI that the arrested people had been taken into custody for not possessing national identity cards.

He said most of them were Afghan nationals. Authorities are conducting thorough investigations against the suspects, he said.

"In order to keep a vigil on the activities of militants, 2,000 police officials in plainclothes will perform duty at major and sensitive majlis," Superintendent of Police Faisal Rana said.

All routes of majlis and processions will be cleared by Special Branch officials and walkthrough gates and metal detectors will be installed at key places.

Rana said special security rooms have been set up in offices of divisional SPs, the city police chief and DIG (Operations) to monitor the security situation. Bomb disposal squad staff, doctors and ambulances will accompany major Shia processions in Lahore.

In the restive northwestern province of Khyber-Pakthunkhwa, 500 'imambargahs' (Shia prayer halls) and 900 religious sites have been declared "sensitive" for Muharram. The government has put security on high alert in the provincial capital of Peshawar to prevent subversive activity, police officials said.

Under the security plan, strict action will be taken against persons who violate laws during the holy month, the officials said.

Special powers have been given to the paramilitary Frontier Corps and Frontier Constabulary to maintain security. The army has been asked to remain on standby to tackle any possible law and order situation.

Eight districts, including Peshawar, Kohat, Hangu and Dera Ismail Khan have been declared "very sensitive". Many parts of Peshawar will be almost sealed to traffic from today and a ban has been imposed on pillion-riding on motorcycles.

In the tribal areas, Kurram and Orakzai Agencies, which have sizeable Shia populations, have been declared "sensitive", officials said.

Religious scholars and clerics of all schools of Islamic thought have finalised a code of conduct for maintaining an "atmosphere of brotherhood and tolerance" and inter-faith harmony during Muharram.

In the past, dozens of people have lost their lives in sectarian clashes and terrorist attacks during Muharram.


First Published: Wednesday, December 08, 2010, 16:27

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