Special Branch survey: Security inadequate at 14 religious sites in South Punjab

A Special Branch survey reveals security arrangements at 14 ‘sensitive’ religious sites are inadequate.

Jallal Bhatti February 23, 2011

BAHAWALPUR: A Special Branch survey has revealed that with security arrangements at 14 ‘sensitive’ religious sites including shrines, churches and an Ahmedi place of worship in southern districts of the province are inadequate.

The survey conducted in February said that most of these places lacked closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras and walkthrough gates. It also said that the number of guards deployed at these sites was inadequate to ensure foolproof security.

The list included Darbar Baba Gharib Shah, the Catholic Church, the PCF Church, Baitullah Mubashar Ahmed (an Ahmedi place of worship), Imambargah Haidery Trust in Rahim Yar Khan, Muhammad Mharvi Dargah and Dargah Naj Sarwar Shahid in Chistiyan, Markazi Imambargah in Bahawalnagar, Darbar Syed Jalalud Din Surkhposh and Darbar Mahboob Subhani in Uch Sharif, Darbar Khawaja Khuda Bakhsh in Khairpur Tamaywali, Darbar Baba Muhammad Shah Rangeela in Hasilpur, Darbar Khawaja Muhkamud Din Seerani in Khanqah Sharif and Catholic Church in Bahawalpur.

Special Branch in charge SP Rao Saleem said most of these places were under the Auqaf Department. He said that after the release of the survey report, some shrines had beefed up security on there own.

Bahawalpur district police officer Babar Bakht Qureshi, however, expressed satisfaction with security arrangements. He said he had recently increased the number of officials deployed at religious sites. “We have also installed more CCTV cameras and walkthrough gates on these sites,” he said.

Rahim Yar Khan DPO Sohail Habib said security agencies were on the alert and were monitoring security arrangements at religious sites including an Ahmedi place of worship around the clock. Habib said he believed the deployment was sufficient. He said walkthrough gates were overrated as a security measure, “They can’t provide protection against a suicide bomber or someone who may through grenades from beyond.”

Administrators at several religious sites expressed mixed responses.

Father Samuel Sammy at Dominican Church Bahawalpur said they had four security guards but no walkthrough gates or CCTV cameras.

He said he was satisfied to the extent that police were cooperative and had beefed up security on special occasions including Christmas and Easter services.

Father Sammy however said security at other churches in Bahawalpur was not adequate. He said there were no security guards permanently deployed over there.

Iftikhar Gillani, at the Pir Mahboob Subhani shirne in Uch Sharif, said there were three security guards and a camera installed recently at the shrine.

He said the guards were not appropriately trained to perform duties at such a sensitive place. He said the shrine drew devotees from across Pakistan and India in huge numbers and needed better security. He said one of the entrances to the shrine through Shams Mahal was a security threat. He said he had requested the Auqaf Department to seal the entrance but had not received a response.

Auqaf secretary, he said, had sought an application from him but nothing had been done in that regard yet.

Najeeb Awaisi, at the Seerani Sharif in Bahawalpur, said he was satisfied with the security provided by the government.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2011.


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