As security forces cordoned off the entire MA Jinnah Road ahead of Ashura, the residents of the buildings along the main road started relocating to safer areas on Thursday.
The police had already directed the residents to stay inside their homes and refrain from watching the procession from their windows and rooftops. To avoid further inconvenience, the residents decided it would be better to leave their homes this weekend.
“It is better to leave this area than stay under house-arrest for the next three days,” said Ali Imran, who lives on MA Jinnah Road. “I doubt the police and Rangers will be able to stop any terrorist activity,” he added.
Another resident Yaqoob and his family are also afraid of the security threats this Ashura. “Every year, the situation goes from bad to worse,” he said. “They torched shops after the Ashura bomb blasts and no one was able to stop the miscreants. What guarantee is there that these miscreants will not set fire to us this time?”
For their part, the law enforcement agencies have prepared extensive security plans for Ashura. Over 900 closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) have been installed at 144 spots on MA Jinnah Road to monitor the main procession. Security cameras have also been installed on the police and Rangers vans. The law enforcement agencies will also install mobile phone jammers along the procession route.
MA Jinnah Road has been declared a high security zone during Muharram and will be closed for traffic until Sunday, Muharram 10. All political and religious organisations have also been banned from setting up aid camps while vehicles without a security pass or stickers will not be allowed.
Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s mazar closed
The shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi was closed for visitors on Thursday due to threats of a terrorist attack. The road leading up to the shrine was also blocked by barriers manned by the traffic police. The shrine will remain closed till Sunday.
According to Sindh Auqaf department minister Nadeem Ahmed Bhutto, Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine was closed after police got some intelligence about a possible attack. Another official added that Misri Shah and Alam Shah Bukhari shrines have also been closed.
SHO Agha Shamshad confirmed that the shrine was closed after the police received threats of a possible attack but he said the police are unaware what kind of attack is likely. There are reports that terrorists can hit the shrine with an explosive-laden vehicle, a planted device or carry out a suicide attack.
A police official said that National Highway and Super Highway are also likely to be closed to hamper possible movement of terrorists.
Security arrangements in Hyderabad
During Ashura in Hyderabad, Qadam Gah Mola Ali, Mehfil-e-Hussaini, Gul Shah, Karbala Dadan Shah, Imambargah Abul Fazal, Saadat Colony, Station Road and Hazara Colony neighbourhoods are the main centre of activity. Around 100 CCTV cameras have been installed along the procession routes, said SP Headquarters Amjad Shaikh.
On Muharram 10, the police is planning to close a dozen streets that intersect the main procession route on Station Road. There will be only one entry point at Karbala Dadan Shah and an exit point near the Bacha Khan chowk. “We want to ensure that no one can enter the procession without a thorough body check,” said SSP Pir Farid Jan Sarhandi.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2012.