RAWALPINDI: The police in collaboration with local administration and religious parties claim to have comprehensive security plan in place to ensure a peaceful Muharram after last year’s incident when at least eight people were killed and over 80 injured in sectarian clashes in front of the Madrassa Taleemul Quran in Raja Bazaar.
The Islamic month is being considered the most sensitive and extremely vulnerable period as far as law and order is concerned owing to rising sectarian target killings in the twin cities.
“A state of highest alert is to be maintained by imposing a curfew-like situation,” said City Police Officer Humayun Bashir Tarar. The CPO said special emphasis will be given on the deployment of force on the venue of majalis and processions.
According to the plan, Tarar informed, all intelligence agencies, including the special branch, CID, SIU and district security branch, will be coordinating to avert any violent and tragic incident and keeping in view the threat perception at each place and its topography, special deployments will be made on rooftops of buildings at important venues. Leaves of police personnel will also not be entertained in the time period.
In case the situation cannot be controlled by the police, the army may be called in aid of civil power but this will done based on a realistic assessment by senior police officers of the district and division, stated the plan.
The plan also entails identification of ‘troublemakers’ and initiation of suitable preventive action against them. Besides, the formation of peace committees at all levels and inclusion of local lawmakers to influence residents is under way. The absence of local religious leaders and their failure to restrain participants of the Ashura procession last year is said to have partly led to the deadly clashes, as those leading the procession were reportedly from the tribal areas.
Moreover, law enforcers have decided to ban the entry of fiery speakers, ulemas or zakirs on the basis of solid evidence of troublemaking. This is a routine practice to avoid sectarian tensions and flare ups. In light of this, it has been decided that strict surveillance of all sectarian activists on the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 will be ensured and detentions of proclaimed offenders and absconders will be carried out. “There will be a strict enforcement on the display of firearms,” stated the police plan. Police officials also said action against authors publishers of objectionable literature will be taken extensively and there will be strict enforcement of the Loudspeakers and Amplifier Ordinance, 1965.
Issuance of official weapons to security personnel will also be taken with great care, said the CPO’s spokesperson Raja Fiaz, adding that selection of weapons will be made keeping in view the nature of the threat perception. “All gazetted officers and upper subordinate officials, from ASI to SHOs, would be armed with revolvers whereas the elite force personnel and commandos will be armed as per their standing orders,” he said. During last year’s clashes, protesters reportedly seized a number of official weapons from the police and used them on opposing sides.
Qamar Zaidi, the spokesperson of the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-e-Jafria, said meetings were being conducted daily and all efforts would be made to defeat the ‘miscreants’. Commenting on last year’s incident, Zaidi said it was an act of terrorism rather than a sectarian incident, adding that clearing the route for the procession was the responsibility of the government.
Hafeez Uneeb of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) said the party never wished to see a repeat of last year’s incident. He informed that ASWJ will take out a procession on Ashura day in Islamabad, leaving the route clear for processions in Rawalpindi.
He claimed that clashes would end forever if members of both sects start participating in each other’s processions.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2014.