LAHORE: The police met with Christian leaders to discuss security measures at churches on Monday, after intelligence reports warned of a heightened threat of terrorist attacks on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The intelligence report named 20 churches in Lahore as “sensitive”, while describing security at all 433 churches in the city as “inadequate”.
The report said that terrorists planned to target Christian gatherings on December 24 and 25.
The report was forwarded to the capital city police officer (CCPO) and others asking that the police act to secure Christian places of worship, particularly the 20 most vulnerable churches.
DOG (Operations) Ghulam Mahmood Dogar met with Christian leaders later on Monday to discuss security, according to a press release. He said that 2,000 policemen would be deployed to protect the 433 churches in the city and all security arrangements would be finalised by December 22.
The police categorised 38 churches in the city as most vulnerable to attack. The DIG said that each of these ‘category A’ churches would get a deployment of one officer and seven junior personnel including snipers to be deployed on rooftops.
The DIG said that walkthrough gates would be installed at the category A churches and that policewomen and Christian volunteers would search people with metal detectors at A and B category churches.
He said that 39 churches were in category B, 187 in C and 179 in D.
Asked if he was satisfied with the security measures, Reverend Shahid Mehraj of the Lahore Cathedral Church, who attended the meeting, said the country was in a war-like situation and it was a dangerous place.
“Security lapses are always possible,” he said, “but we can’t just blame the government and its agencies for that, it is also the public’s responsibility.”
CCPO Ahmed Raza Tahir said that the police would do their best to ensure “foolproof security” at churches, particularly at those declared vulnerable.
Special Branch personnel would monitor the situation at churches and in residential areas with large Christian communities.
He said that the men deployed at the churches would be from the Mujahid Force and Quick Response Force. Extra security and patrolling would be done during service hours in the churches, he said.
About the differing police and intelligence assessments of the number of vulnerable churches, he said that they had different methods of making these assessments.
According to the intelligence report, the most sensitive sites are St Francis Catholic Church, Peco Road; St Andrew’s Church, Empress Road; Catholic Church, Lawrence Road; Muqaddasa Maryam Baydagh Church, Katchery Road; National Council of Churches, Queens Road; St Mary’s Church, Abid Majeed Road; St Joseph Church, Sarfaraz Rafiqui Road; FGA Church, Sultan Park, Gulberg; Catholic Church opposite Lahore High Court; St Anthony’s Church, Railway Road; Presbyterian Church opposite Haji Camp Chowk, Naulakha Bazaar; Lahore Crown Church, FC College; Crescent Church, Sarwar Road; St Mary’s Church, Block-I, Gulberg; Church of the Holy Cross, Zafar Ali Road; Christ Church, Yohannabad; Army Salvation Church, Yohannabad Main Bazaar; Catholic Church, Yohannabad Main Bazaar; Basharati Church, Yohannabad; and RJ Church, Yohannabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2011.