Lahore police have decided to tighten their security plan for the Shia procession marking the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali (RA) on Ramazan 21 (August 10).
The procession from the Walled City to Karbala Gamay Shah was the target of a bombing two years ago in which over 50 people were killed and 250 injured.
A source in the police said that this time, City Superintendent of Police (SP) Multan Khan, along with other officials, would walk several feet ahead of the procession as a security measure. As before, Special Branch officials will check the route before the procession.
The procession goes through a dense urban area and one of the major security challenges is to ensure that there is no attack on the procession from houses along the way. The source said that previously, owners of houses along the route had to pledge to the police that no guests or outsiders would be at their property at the time of the procession, nor would they go to the rooftop.
This time, said the source, the police would undertake physical searches of houses they suspected could pose a security risk. They would pay special attention to rented properties and properties where single men lived.
General traffic is not allowed on the route on the day of the procession, but the organisers use couriers on motorbikes to transport food and other essential items to participants in the procession. The police source said that these motorbikes would still be allowed on the procession route, but each one would have to be registered to a specific driver and no one else would be allowed to use that bike for the procession.
The source said that some 7,300 personnel would be deployed to monitor the procession. Sniffer dogs and metal detectors would be used to ensure that the route is clear and people can’t bring weapons.
He said that 75 closed circuit television cameras had been installed at rooftops, squares and roadsides. Around 45 snipers will be stationed at rooftops while 200 plainclothes officials will be in amongst the procession.
A day before the procession, the City SP will meet with Shia security volunteers to brief them and to coordinate their duties with police officials. The Operations DIG has already met with Shia ulema, who have pledged to cooperate with the police, said the source. The police official said that the crime rate usually increases in the last 10 days of Ramazan.
City SP Multan Khan said that the police would search houses along the route if they felt the need, particularly rented properties and houses where single men lived. He declined further comment on the security plan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2012.