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October 23, 2015

Cellphone service remains suspended today, tomorrow


October 23, 2015

To ensure security on Muharram 9 and 10, cellphone service will remain suspended in the provincial metropolis and other major cities of Punjab to avoid any terrorist activity, The News has learnt.
According to the notification issued by the Interior Ministry to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the cellphone service will remain suspended in Lahore on Muharram 9 and 10 (today and tomorrow) from 6am to 10pm and in other cities of Punjab from 11am to 10pm.
Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Home Departments have yet to receive a reply from the interior ministry on whether or not to suspend cellular networks on the Ashura.
"We have not received a reply from the federal government as yet regarding K-P and Sindh," an official of PTA said on Thursday. He added the provincial governments intended to shut down cellular networks to avert the possibility of a militant attack on 9th and 10th Muharram.
According to Provincial Crisis Management Centre officials, they will wait for the interior ministry's response before it takes any decision on the matter.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for Punjab's Inspector General Police said the Punjab government has not yet taken any decision regarding suspension of mobile services, adding that a request for suspension was initiated by districts.
"As previously planned cell phone service will be suspended only in limited areas," he said, adding, however, that if needed they might also request for a complete suspension.
The federal and provincial governments have agreed to implement this step in coordination. In this regard, both governments discussed the situation and the district-wise state of affairs. Other districts where the services will remain suspended include Chakwal, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Jhang, Multan, Narowal, Rawalpindi, Attock, Jhelum, Sargodha, Bhakkar, Toba Tek Singh, Chiniot, Pakpattan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Layyah, Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan.
The sources disclosed that the

security agencies informed the federal interior ministry that there was a potential threat that terrorists could target processions on Ashura processions. The interior ministry issued a circular to the provincial governments and directed the administration of the provincial governments to adopt foolproof security arrangements to avoid any untoward incident.
In this regard, Punjab Home Department prepared a security plan and submitted it to the federal interior ministry. According to the plan, the Punjab Home Department has requested the federal government for provision of sniffer dogs, army helicopters for surveillance of sensitive areas, while companies of army and Punjab Rangers have been kept on the stand-by.
Sniffer dogs will be used in all the divisional headquarters and the districts where agencies have reported potential threat. While in other districts, the Bomb Disposal Squad would clear the routes of the processions.
In addition to this, the law-enforcement agencies have been directed to keep vigilance at bus stands, wagon stands, railway stations, entry exit routes and motels through undercover personnel. The provincial government has also issued a circular to the Punjab police to beef up security at processions.

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