Muharram processions taken out amidst tight security in federal capital

Published: September 21, 2018
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Muharram 9 procession in Sector G-6. PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM/ EXPRESS

Muharram 9 procession in Sector G-6. PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM/ EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Muharram nine processions culminated peacefully amid tight security in the capital which saw thousands of troops being deployed across the city with dozens of roads closed.

Cellular services also remained off-air during the day even though there were reports that some services were working intermittently.

The main procession was taken out from the Markazi Imambargah in Sector G-6/2 around noon and after passing through its traditional route — through Sectors G-6 and G-7, it culminated at the same Imambargah late on Thursday night.

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The procession was attended by thousands of mourners including women and children.

Effective security arrangements were made by the Islamabad Police and the district administration which included the deployment of more than 2,500 security personnel including police officers, Rangers, and the Frontier Constabulary.

Before the main procession left the imambargah in Sector G-6/2, the bomb disposal squad had scanned the procession route.

Various service roads in Sector G-6/2 and Sector G-7/3 had been sealed off late on Wednesday night using shipping containers, concrete blocks and barbed wires. The Islamabad Traffic Police, though, had deployed its personnel in strength at every roadblock and diversion.

People drink from a sabeel during Muharram 9 procession in Islamabad. PHOTO: ONLINE

The roads closed for traffic included Fazle Haq Road from China Chowk to Kulsum Plaza, Post Office Service Road, Saddar Road from Iqbal Hall to Melody, Municipal Road from Lal Masjid to the General Post Office (GPO), and Luqman Hakeem Road from Polyclinic to Iqbal Hall remained closed for all kind of traffic apart from various other service roads.

Owing to the closure of roads, traffic remained thin on the capital’s thoroughfares. Public transport was also in short supply.

Because of the roadblocks, residents of Sector G-6/2 residents had to face difficulties since most of the streets were cordoned off until late at night.

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Many shopping centres were also partially closed.

Unlike the last year, the authorities had suspended cellular services in most parts of the capital as a precautionary measure. Last year, the government had decided to increase the deployment instead of suspending cellular services.

However, this year, there were reports that some services worked intermittently despite the ban.

As a precautionary measure, the district administration had barred motorbike pillion riding in the entire city. The ban came into effect on Muharram 1 and will remain in place until the night of Muharram 10.

On Thursday, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi also visited the procession as well as the Safe City command centre from where the police were monitoring the security situation in the city.

Senior officials of the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration and the police briefed him on the security arrangements made to ensure peaceful conduct of the processions, majalis and other Muharram-related events in the city.

The minister also visited the main imambargah in the city and met with the organisers of the procession. He also greeted the police personnel deputed there and inquired after them.

“The government will provide security and honour to all citizens and religious groups equally. This country belongs to all of us,” he declared while speaking to the mourners.

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He assured that there will be no compromise on national security.

“We will secure this country and turn Pakistan into a country our future generations would be proud of,” Afridi said, as he walked around the procession route. He appreciated the dedication of police officers and promised to work for their welfare.

“My doors are always open for all personnel,” he told them and advised senior police officers to care about the lower cadres who perform difficult duties on the roads.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2018.

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