Pak authorities step up security measures during Muharram

Pakistani authorities have put in place tight security measures and deployed thousands of policemen and paramilitary personnel during the holy month of Muharram.

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.