A directive by the Punjab government to enhance security for minorities’ places of worship has resulted in station house officers (SHOs) passing on the buck by issuing a long list of measures to be taken by the administrations of temples and churches.
After a recent directive issued by the home department for the security of minorities’ places of worship, Christian and Hindu worshippers complained that no steps had been taken on ground. According to a story published on March 31, the home department had directed the police to tighten security in view of possible terrorist attacks.
According to a notice issued by various SHOs to temples and churches of the garrison city, the administrations have been asked to take nine steps for their protection. These include the installation of CCTV cameras, storing one month’s footage, securing the place with barbed wire, eight-foot high boundary walls, setting up a police post on the roof, proper lighting and hiring security guards from a registered company which is verified by the police.
Entry gates and barriers should be installed as well, states the notice. Also, the police should be informed before the start of a ceremony so that they can make security arrangements. Representatives of minorities said provision of security is the responsibility of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB).
“ETPB is the guardian of all temples and it is their responsibility to provide funds for security requirements,” said Hindu-Sikh Social Welfare Council President Jag Mohan Arora. In 2010, we received the same notice and we informed the police as well as EPTB officials, but the latter paid no heed despite repeated requests and visits, he added. “We are in the habit of lamenting after a tragedy occurs but who cares.”
We cannot even arrange sufficient funds for religious ceremonies, how can we set aside such a huge sum to implement these steps? asked Ashok Chand.
Dr Samuel Titus, chairman Clergy Association of Pakistan and pastor St. Paul’s Church, Rawalpindi, said security is provided to big churches only on special occasions. After a suicide attack on a church in Peshawar, the government allowed us to make our own arrangements but when we applied for arms licences, the government rejected the applications.
“We have urged the government to permit arms licences for churches,” he maintained. We are capable of protecting our worship places but the government should also take some initiative. It is impossible for a security guard to stop an attacker equipped with sophisticated weapons with a stick.
Rawalpindi Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Mian Maqbool said, “We have already taken steps to protect churches and temples.” On special occasions like Diwali or Christmas we provide foolproof security to them. “We even provided parking space which was protected.” At the same time, he brought up the issue of a shortage of police personnel, while speaking about enhanced security.
A delegation is expected to arrive for celebrating Besakhi from India on April 10 for which we have made arrangements, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2014.