Youm-i-Ali, the martyrdom day of Hazrat Ali (RA) was observed in the twin cities with religious fervour and reverence amid tight security on Sunday. Majalis-e-Aza were held and processions were taken out at various points in the two cities.
Around 6,000 police personnel — 4,000 in Rawalpindi and 2,000 in Islamabad — were deployed to guard around 150 religious gatherings and 35 processions.
In Rawalpindi, around 26 processions were taken out from Col Maqbool Imambargah, Imambargah Fatimia, Qasr-e-Zainab, Shah Chan Chiragh and markazi imambargahs and also from the areas of New Town, Waris Khan, Civil Lines, City, Kirtarpura, Cantonment, Taxila, Gujar Khan and Mohanpura.
The processions passed through Kashmiri Bazaar, Iqbal Road, Fawara Chowk, Naya Mohalla and other areas.
Special security arrangements were made by the Rawalpindi police at tehsil level, where volunteers provided additional support to policemen. Traffic wardens were directed not to allow parking within 250 metres of procession routes. Snipers were deployed on the rooftops of important buildings. Procession participants were not allowed to carry weapons.
At the same time, Rescue 1122 was put on alert, while Section 144 had been imposed in Rawalpindi district and pillion riding was banned over security concerns.
Rawalpindi was among the eight districts in Punjab that was declared sensitive on Youm-e-Ali. The district administration had also set up a control room to monitor the processions.
In Islamabad, Youm-e-Ali processions and gatherings were held in eight areas including Aabpara, Sabzi Mandi, Bari Imam and Golra Sharif.
Police and Rangers teams accompanied the processions. Police personnel were deployed at imambargahs, where walkthrough gates were also installed. Police personnel including women police, contingents of elite force, special branch and teams of Rangers patrolled the streets of the federal capital.
A comprehensive traffic plan was also issued for the day. Traffic was diverted to alternate routes due to processions.
Meanwhile, Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) took out a separate procession in connection with Youm-e-Ali on Sunday. The procession started from Rehmania Masjid near Aabpara and culminated at Aabpara Chowk.
ASWJ Secretary General Khadim Hussain Dhillon and others addressed the participants. They highlighted different aspects from the life of Hazrat Ali (RA). ASWJ leaders also condemned recent targeted attacks on party workers and demanded the arrest of the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, the police administrations of the twin cities have finalised arrangements to provide additional security to places of worship in the last 10 days of Ramazan as a large number of people will be observing Aitkaf.
The largest Aitkaf gatherings in the federal capital are held at Faisal Mosque and Lal Masjid.
Islamabad police have divided the mosques into three security categories. “There are a total of 720 mosques in Islamabad which have been divided into three categories. Around 50 mosques are considered “sensitive” and proper security measures have been put in place there,” said Senior Superintendent of the Islamabad Police Muhammad Ali Nekokara.
He said that most sensitive mosques were placed in category A, where four policemen would be on duty for Friday, Taraveeh and Eid prayers.
Nekokara said two policemen would guard mosques placed in category B, while the security of mosques in C category was the responsibility of the local administrations.
In Rawalpindi, the largest gathering for Aitkaf is being observed at Jamia Masjid and Liaquat Bagh Mosque.
Mosques in Rawalpindi have also been divided into three categories and policemen have been deployed along similar lines to Islamabad.
Security around imambargahs has also been beefed up.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2014.