Islamabad/Karachi: Alarmed by the recent Taliban attacks on Shia processions, Pakistan on Friday shut down the mobile phone network in Islamabad, Karachi and some other cities as a part of security measures for this weekend, which is the climax of the holy month of Muharram.
The suspension, which the Taliban said would not affect its "bombings", will be extended to dozens of cities and town of Pakistan over the weekend - the 9th and 10th day of Muharram.
The mobile services will be suspended in provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as well as Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
The 9th and 10th of Muharram mark a key event in the Islamic religious calendar particularly for Shias.
Islamabad, Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Karachi, Hyderabad, Peshawar,Nowshera, Turbat, Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot and Mirpur are among the prominent cities and towns were the government has suspended the mobile service during the weekend.
Services were today jammed in parts of Islamabad were Shia processions were organised from 3 pm.
A decision on restricting the use of motorcycles would be taken after consultations with provincial and federal authorities later in the evening, Malik said.
Orders issued earlier had directed authorities to ensure that no motorcycles are parked within half a kilometre of Imambargahs or Shia prayer halls.
Malik contended that these steps were being taken because there had been 468 bomb attacks in which motorcycle were used.
"In 90 per cent of bombings, mobile SIMs are used (to trigger explosive devices)," he said.
This is the second time Pakistani authorities have shut down mobile networks during Muharram, which culminates with Ashura, when Shias organise huge processions to mourn the seventh-century martyrdom of Imam Hussein.
A suicide bomber killed 23 people and wounded over 60 at a Shia procession in Rawalpindi yesterday.
Ashura falls on Sunday and the government has deployed thousands of security personnel across the country to prevent sectarian attacks.
During his interaction with journalists, Malik claimed he and several senior officials had received threats from terrorists over the past few days. He did not give details.
He said a "big organised gang" was behind recent sectarian attacks.
"I openly visited Imambargahs and reviewed security in Islamabad today to send a message to terrorists who sent me a threat," he said.