QUETTA/ PESHAWAR/ ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE/ KARACHI:
Thousands of mourners across the country took part in 9th Muharram processions amid stringent security on Saturday.
Despite the threat of possible terrorist attacks, hundreds of people, including women and children, participated in Islamabad’s biggest Muharram procession, which culminated in over six hours.
“The greater the threat, the greater the number of people that participate in the procession,” said Ali Raza, one of the participants, adding they were not afraid of any terrorists.
“They cannot stop us from observing our rituals. It is our faith.”
Over 500 police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary personnel kept watch over the procession’s route.
In Rawalpindi, mourning processions passed through different areas of the garrison city under strict security in light of the November 21 suicide attack on a procession that claimed 24 lives. All roads leading to the processions’ routes and Imambargahs were sealed with barbed wire, while armed policemen guarded entry points.
All government hospitals in the twin cities remained on high alert to respond to any emergency.
Thousands took part in processions in Karachi as well, undeterred by looming terrorist threats and the string of recent bomb blasts targeting Imambargahs.
“The attacks have made us more thick-skinned. The more the terrorists strike, the more resilient we will be become,” said mourner Abbas Ali Shah. Another mourner, present with his wife and children, said, “We came despite the blast in DI Khan today (Saturday).”
Over 30,000 security personnel, from both police and paramilitary forces, were deployed along the route. The army remained on standby in case of any emergency as well. Both cellular services and PTCL wireless services were blocked in the financial capital. Choppers and CCTV cameras monitored processions in Quetta as well, where sectarian and ethnic violence has been on the rise. While the processions culminated without any untoward incident, FC and the Anti-Terrorist Force remained alert. Meanwhile, all cellular and wireless services were suspended and motorcycles were banned in Quetta and some other parts of Balochistan.
The procession in Lahore culminated without incident as well, amid stringent security measures that included a ban on pillion riding and suspension of cellular services. Around 15,000 police personnel were deployed across the city and Rangers remained on high alert to respond to any untoward incident.
Large processions marched across Peshawar, like the rest of country, amid heightened security. Fearing terrorist attacks, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government declared an emergency at all government hospitals for 9th and 10th Muharram and cancelled leaves for all doctors and staff.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2012.