Around 110 companies of the army have been put ‘on call’ in cities and towns declared as ‘highly sensitive areas’ in the month of Muharram, sources told The Express Tribune.
The companies can be called to report on extremely short notice, even minutes. The move comes amid threats by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) of mounting more attacks on Shia processions.
The civil administration had already declared provincial capitals Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, and Peshawar, and other areas like Jhang, Gilgit, Skardu and Parachinar as sensitive, while Rawalpindi was added to the list following a deadly bomb blast on Wednesday, said sources in the armed forces.
“We do not want to disclose the exact number of troops that have been deputed for these cities due to security reasons. When we say the army personnel have been put ‘on call’, we mean the troops are ready to reach a troubled spot within minutes,” said a military official.
Insiders said around 110 companies of the Pakistan Army will remain alert during the next few days to deal with any untoward incident. One company consists of 144 soldiers, mainly from the infantry, and is led by either a major or a captain.
According to standard practice, the army is called in when police and other law enforcement agencies fail to curb unrest.
Meanwhile, a private news channel reported that TTP claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks carried out near Imambargahs in Karachi and Rawalpindi on Wednesday. The militant outfit also warned of more attacks in the next few days.
“We carried out the attacks in Rawalpindi and Karachi because the Shia community is engaged in defiling the Holy Prophet (pbuh),” the channel quoted TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan as saying.
According to intelligence reports, Taliban and other militant outfits are plotting attacks in Lahore and other parts of Punjab. Sources in intelligence agencies said a call originating from Waziristan had been intercepted, and that the miscreants were planning attacks in Anarkali and Kasur areas. Reports added some targets had already been assigned.
The police is said to be the target of attacks in Lahore, where explosives planted in donkey carts and pushcarts might be used.
The militants plan on attacking soft targets in cities of Punjab, including the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, states another report. The Sipah-e-Sahaba, another banned militant outfit, is also planning attacks on Shia processions.
Intelligence reports said security has been beefed up, and police and other law enforcement agencies have been deployed to prevent these attacks. They added that a field survey has been carried out to identify new residents of areas that the processions will pass through. The survey said 32 new tenants have settled down along the routes of these processions in different parts of Lahore.
The recent attacks, which claimed dozens of lives and left scores of people injured, came at a time when a number of dignitaries and heads of states of Turkey, Indonesia, Iran and Nigeria are in Islamabad to attend the Developing-8 Summit. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM ASAD KHARAL IN LAHORE)
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2012.