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Phones silenced to block bombs
 
 
 

ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR - Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Friday that the government will suspend cell phone and wireless services in most parts of the country over the next two days to prevent attacks on the occasion of Ashura-e-Muharram.The suspension of cell phone service will begin at 6am Saturday and run through the next day, Malik told reporters in Islamabad after chairing a meeting held here to review law and order situation in the country and emerging threats of terrorist acts.The minister said the mobile phone and PTCL wireless service will be suspended between 6am to 10pm in 46 cities across the country, claiming that the decision was taken after considering written request from all the provincial governments and consultation with the prime minster in this regard. Mobile phone services will also be suspended in Gilgit and some parts of Azad Kashmir, he added.Malik said they had received credible information from multiple intelligence sources that terrorists were planning more attacks in coming days, particularly in Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad. He said 90 per cent of the bombs set off by militants in Pakistan over past two years were detonated by using motorcycles and cell phones.Giving details, Rehman Malik said that the mobile phone services would be suspended on Saturday (Muharram 9) in Islamabad’s G-6 Sector from 3pm to 8pm. According to him, the cities in Punjab where mobile phone and PTCL wireless service would be suspended on Saturday and Sunday include: Lahore, Multan, Sargodha, Attock, Rawalpindi, Jhang, Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Nankana, DG Khan, Pak Pattan and Bhakkar.The Balochistan cites are: Quetta, Kallat, Khuzdar, Turbat, Gawadar, Punjgoor, Mastung, Kohlu, Dera Bugti, Hub and Dera Bugti. In Sindh: Karachi, Hyderabad, Noshero Feroz and Khairpur. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Kohat City, Ustarzai, Hungoo, Bannu, Luki, DI Khan, Tank, Nowshehra, Haripur, Charsada and Mardan. In FATA: Kurram Agency (Parachanar) and Miranshah. In AJK: Muzaffarabad, Kotli, Neelam Valley, Rawalkot and Mirpur, while in Gilgit-Baltistan the service would be suspended in Gilgit.It is the second time the government has shut down mobile networks during the holy month of Muharram, which culminates with Ashura. Even on Friday, mobile and wireless phone services were temporarily blocked in Karachi, Quetta, Hangu, Kohat and parts of capital Islamabad.Some political leaders of Sindh and Punjab and people at large have opposed the interior ministry decision of shutting down the cellular phones service. They were of the view that suspending mobile service was not the permanent solution to stop the terrorism but long termed strategies were needed to curb this menace.But the minister said the phone suspension was intended to "ensure security during and after the Muharram processions". He said he had received requests from all the provincial governments; the government in Punjab had requested for suspension of mobile phone communications in 14 cities for two days.Rehman Malik said motorcycles were used in around 90 per cent of terrorist incidents during last two years and added the terrorists have introduced a new trend of blasts through mobile phones and motorcycles. He said as part of security measures, pillion riding has been banned in the country from Friday while no motorcycle and vehicle would be allowed to be parked within half kilometre of Majalis and along the routes of processions during Ashura.To a question about the “third invisible force” carrying out terrorist activities, he said, Hakimullah Mahsud and Waliur Rehman should accept their role in current wave of terrorism and added it has been proved that there is no conflict between Shia and Sunni sects. In this regard, he mentioned the meeting with Ulema.“We are gathering intelligence information about the third force as we have already completed majority of work and soon they would be exposed,” he said. Malik said he and some officials of his ministry have received threatening SMS, adding that the persons behind this move had been traced. “Investigation are in progress and soon we would reach the culprit.”The minister said maximum jammers would be placed along the routes of the processions and around Majalis venues while all garbage bins in the relevant areas would be physically checked and electronically swept. No cement block would be allowed to be placed near Majalis and on the routes of the processions, as all such were already being removed forthwith.He said all electricity transformers installed on electric poles along the routes would be physically searched for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and guarded accordingly round the clock. Likewise, the police and LEAs would ensure that any freshly dug up soil along the routes or near Majalis would be electronically swept as well as checked using sniper dogs. Collection boxes for Quranic verses and all sitting benches in the parks, small culverts in the areas concerned would also be scanned.“No motorcycle and car would be allowed to be parked along with the routes. Any suspicious motorcycle or car would be removed immediately and checked for any IEDs,” he added. He said all ‘Sabeels’, stalls, camps along the routes and near Imambargahs would be minutely checked for security clearance as certificate of such clearance would be given by a responsible person, maintaining the camp/sabeel/stall etc.All food distributed at ‘lungar, Niaz’ would be checked with the help of joint teams of volunteers and police and it would be ensured that during the distribution of food, strict security measures are taken to avoid sneaking in of any suicide bomber. Moreover, he said all buildings and vintage points on the relevant routes would be manned by sharp shooters with proper communication.Every half kilometre of the procession route, a duty magistrate would be appointed to deal with any situation in a judicial manner while no government official, individual or member of LEA would be allowed to move near the procession without ID Card and same may be lodged in the register for future reference, he added.The minister said anybody identifying any material linked with IED would be rewarded with a cash prize of Rs5 million. Anybody caught planting IED or firing would be dealt with under the law exercising right of his defence by Rangers and police to neutralise the offender from causing harm.Police and LEAs would exercise extreme vigilance and caution and care at the time of dispersal of the processions and Majalis. Malik said that maximum cameras would be made operational during processions by the LEAs and each video made would be certified by telecom wing of police department and saved as record.The minister emphasised upon the intelligence agencies that they should not only concentrate upon the collection of information about the terrorist groups but they also provide support in real term in preventing affectively terrorist incidents. He directed Islamabad IGP and the Chief Commissioner that strict measures should be taken to beef up security as there was credible information available that terrorist attacks were imminent in the city.The minister also made an appeal to Sunni and Shia Ulema not to make inflammatory and derogatory speeches to ensure interfaith harmony. He thanked the Ulema for their efforts in maintaining peace and harmony in spite of provocation by the terrorists. He also thanked all the mobile phone service operators for their cooperation and appreciation in taking security measures, to safeguard human lives and property. Rehman Malik also appealed to the citizens to avoid using motorcycles during Ashura.The meeting offered Fateha for Shuhada of police, army and LEAs for their courage and sacrifice of their lives. The meeting was also attended by secretary and additional secretary of interior, information technology secretary, National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) chairman, Islamabad IG Police and chief commissioner, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) consultant and member telecom, director general of National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) and representatives of intelligence agencies and police.On Friday, mobile phone services were suspended in Karachi and Quetta after the announcement of the interior minister. “The decision is being taken to ensure foolproof security arrangements till Ashura. We are suspending the mobile phone service and PTCL's wireless service on the request of provincial governments of Sindh and Balochistan,” Malik talking to reporters said.Balochistan Interior Secretary Akbar Durrani said of Friday that the mobile phone service in Quetta, Loralai, Naseeabad, and Zhob will remain suspended on 9th and 10th of Muharram. He said that the provincial government has not taken any decision to put a ban on motorcycle riding in Quetta; however, ban on pillion riding will remain enforced.The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa announced the suspension of mobile phone services in six districts of the province during 9th and 10th of Muharram. These six districts are Peshawar, Dera Ismali Khan, Tank, Haripur, Mansehra and Kohat. Earlier, the KPK government had recommended the federal government to close mobile service only in district Kohat. However, later, five more districts were added to the list of most sensitive districts.The officials in KPK home and tribal affairs department said that this decision has been taken to avoid any unpleasant incident during Muharram. In Peshawar alone, 10,343 personnel of police and other security agencies have been deployed. Similarly, 1,967 security personnel have been deployed in Hangu, 4,297 in DI Khan, 1,194 in Tank, 1,684 in Mansehra, 3,789 in Bannu, 2,165 in Kohat and 1,052 in Haripur respectively.According to details, 122 processions will be taken out from 65 Imambargahs in Peshawar, 138 from 64 Imambargahs in DI Khan, 15 from 24 Imambargahs in Hangu, 38 from 19 Imambargahs in Haripur, 23 from nine Imambargahs in Tank and eight from 43 Imambargahs in Kohat. Apart from these, 377 Muharram processions would be taken out from 243 Imambargahs in other parts of the province.Also on Friday, after analysing security arrangements in Markaz G-9 Islamabad, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the country is at war against the enemies of Islam and those of the Muslims, in view of which security measures all over Pakistan were being taken.Talking to reporters at Police Lines Headquarters, Islamabad, on the occasion of the funeral of martyred ASI, Sher Muhammad, the minister gave him a tribute for saving the Turnol Police Station and its arsenal from looters. On September 21, 2012, a violent mob protesting the release of blasphemous movie, 'Innocence of Muslims', had attacked Turnol Police Station and tried to loot the arsenal. ASI Sher Muhammad was injured during scuffles with them, and later succumbed to his injuries.Malik noted that Sitara-e-Shujaat has been awarded to the martyred ASI for his bravery. He announced that the police department would bear the cost of education of the ASI's children and the living expenditures of his family. He also made an announcement to grant Rs3 million to the family of the martyr from 'Shaheed Fund'. He also said that he would request the PM for more financial help to the family.

 
 
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