LAHORE - Lahore police Saturday stepped up patrolling across the city with massive deployment of force in anticipation for the homecoming rally of ousted PM Nawaz Sharif.

Thousands of police were on guard on the route of the rally as the PML-N leader left Shahdara stopover on Saturday night to address charged crowds at Data Darbar, the last point of the rally taken from the federal capital four days ago.

Jubilant supporters were chanting full-throat slogans to welcome their leader as Nawaz Sharif reached the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Ali Hajveri, at 10:00pm last night.

Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif and federal misters also attended the rally. Several operations rooms were activated to monitor the security situation with the help of modern technology. Hundreds of CCTV cameras were also installed on the route.

Heavily-armed commandoes, police response units, quick response force, and bomb disposal squads filled the area. Many rescue workers and ambulances were also seen at different points of the rally to meet any emergency.

The city police department successfully implemented a comprehensive security plan to keep the things under control amid terror threats. The strategy involved aerial surveillance, snap-checking and massive security sweep in addition to heavy deployment.

Punjab Inspector General of Police Arif Nawaz Khan, CCPO Muhammad Amin Wains and DIG Operations Haider Ashraf visited the route of the rally on Saturday afternoon to check security deployment.

City police chief Muhammad Amin Wains last week approved a comprehensive security plan for the rally and ordered his force to continue search operations on a daily basis and all over the city. Officers were seen using biometric machines and android mobile phones to verify the particulars of individuals.

Earlier, police and other agencies launched massive security sweep to hunt down suspected elements. Hundreds of police took part in the combing operations launched in the walled city and other sensitive areas of the metropolis.

The rally’s participants were provided three-layer security and city police searched each person thoroughly at three different points before allowing him entry towards the main venue. All police response units and Dolphins Squads were seen on patrol around the route. The central operations room was activated at the office of DIG (Operations) to monitor the security situation round the clock.

Police on Saturday evening intensified armed patrolling across the Walled city. A good number of snipers were deployed on top of the high-rises alongside the route to check the movement of suspected elements.

Also, authorities blocked several crossings and major roads by placing heavy containers alongside the rally route to divert the traffic flow towards alternative routes. The city traffic police department implemented a detailed diversion plan to ensure smooth flow of traffic on city roads.

Hundreds of policemen were also deployed around key government installations, police headquarters, and other important buildings. Police squads on gun-fitted vehicles continued patrolling on the leading roads.

A total of 7,000 police were deployed on the route of the rally on Saturday, a police spokesman said. Similarly, armed patrolling was also intensified across the city. Police source said that some 200 CCTV cameras were installed on the rally route from Shahdara to Data Darbar to digitally monitor the security situation. Several control rooms were activated in Lahore and the security monitoring was ensured from the high-tech command, control, and communication center, operating under the Punjab Safe City Authority.

According to a traffic police spokesman, the city traffic police implemented a major traffic diversion plan to ensure safe route for the rally. More than 1,500 traffic officers were deployed across Lahore to divert traffic towards alternative routes.

The motorists heading to Islamabad from Lahore were allowed to use Thokar Niaz Baig and Babu-Sabu interchanges to reach the motorway. All the vehicular traffic coming from the southern Punjab to Lahore had to use motorway to reach Islamabad.