ISLAMABAD: In a bid to to avert terror attacks on Ashura congregations/processions the government has suspended mobile phone services in 48 cities across Pakistan for two days (9th and 10th of Muharram),Geo News reported.
Mobile phone services remain open in Peshawar after the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Home Department informed the Federal government that they were confident of their security arrangements.
The decision to suspend mobile phone services in the country was taken during a high-level meeting chaired by Interior Minister Rehman Malik in Islamabad on Friday to review security measures adopted to provide peaceful atmosphere to the people during the Ashura.
Talking to media persons after the meeting at the Ministry of Interior, Malik feared more terrorist attacks during the Ashura.
Quoting intelligence reports, he said that terrorist outfits had planned to attack mourning processions during the Ashura in Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad.
He said that the phone service in some sensitive cities was partially and fully suspended on 8th of Muharram to avoid any untoward incidents during the mourning processions and Majalis on the requests of relevant provinces.
During the meeting, Malik highlighted the need for temporary suspension of mobile service to avert terrorist activities, interior ministry sources said.The meeting recollected that 820 incidents of terrorist attacks happened in Muharram-ul-Harram during 2011 and 2012 and motorcycles were used in all these attacks.
Requests from all the provinces for suspension of mobile services during the 9th and 10th of Muharram were also reviewed in the meeting.
Malik consulted the AJK prime minister, Punjab chief secretary, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial police officer and Sindh additional chief secretary (Home) on mobile service suspension.
On the basis of the feedback, the interior minister apprised the prime minister of written as well as telephonic requests of the provinces for the suspension of mobile services during the 9th and 10th Muharram, and got the premier’s nod to temporarily close the mobile phone services on security grounds, the meeting was told.
The meeting decided closing of mobile service from 1 pm to midnight in Quetta and Karachi on November 23 (8th of Muharram); closing of mobile services in G-9 Islamabad from 3pm to 6pm the same day and suspension of mobile phone services in G-6 sector from 3pm hrs to 8pm on November 24 (9th of Muharram).
The minister issued instructions to all the provinces regarding strict security measures during the Muharram processions for the protection of life and property of innocent people who are exposed to terrorist activities.
The meeting also decided to suspend mobile service in different sensitive cities including Lahore, Multan, Sargodha, Attock, Rawalpindi, Jhang, Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Quetta, Kallat, Khuzdar, Turbat, Gawadar, Panjgur, Mastung, Kohlu, Dera Bugti, Hub, Kohat, Ustarzai, Hangu, Bannu, Laki Marwat, DI Khan, Tank, Nowshehra, Haripur, Charssadda, Mardan, Kurram Agency (Parachanar), Miranshah, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s cities including Muzaffarabad, Kotli, Neelam Valley, Rawalakot, Mirpur and in Gilgit-Baltistan.
It was also decided that the PTCL service would also remain closed in Fata during 9th and 10th Muharram. Malik made an appeal to Sunni and Shia Ulema not to use inflammatory and derogatory words or speeches hurting anybody’s sentiments and feelings and to ensure interfaith harmony.
He said that along with suspension of cell phone service, wireless telephone network services will also be suspended.Replying to a question about the third invisible force carrying out terrorist activities, he said, Hakimullah Mahsud and Wali-ur-Rehman should accept their role in current wave of terrorism.
Malik said that he and some officials of his ministry had received threatening SMS, adding that the persons behind this move had been traced.
Further investigations were in progress and soon the culprits would be brought to book, he added.
Meanwhile, security in Karachi and Quetta is on high alert, and routes of mourning procession have been sealed due to which citizens are facing problems. Services of bomb disposal squads and sniffer dogs have been acquired.
Thousands of security personnel have been deployed to control law and order situation in all the cities of the country.
And police commandos are guarding the railway stations.
Meanwhile, Punjab Police IG has sent special police teams to 36 districts of the province in view of security situation.
Ariel surveillance will be done through helicopters during Ashura in south Punjab.
Multan, Bhakkar, Sargodha, Khushab and some other districts have been declared sensitive, while 60 activists of banned organisations have been held. Any kind of traffic has been prohibited around the Imambargahs in the sensitive cities.
In Sindh, Pakistan Army troops have been given high alert. According to Sindh Police IG, as many as 5,500 cops will be deployed at the routes of main mourning processions.
Signal jammers will also be installed on the routes. Containers have been placed to secure the routes of processions in Karachi, blocking all the exit and entrance points.
All the security procedures have been given final touch in the province.
In Rawalpindi, City District Government Administrator Saqib Zafar, under Section 144, has banned pillion riding in the district for two days. Same measures have been taken in the AJK.
As many as 10,000 security personnel will be deployed in Peshawar only.