LAHORE - Police yesterday mounted one of the biggest security operations in the provincial metropolis to protect people during the holy month of Muharram.

More than 6000 Majalis and mourning processions are listed in Lahore, this year. Thousands of police are deployed to provide security cover to 5369 Majalis and 615 mourning processions to be taken out from across the provincial metropolis.

The provincial police approved a comprehensive security plan for the crucial month of Muharram at a time when a massive crackdown is underway against firebrand clerics and extremists.

In the Punjab province, tens of thousands of police are deployed to guard mourning processions and congregations amid serious security threats. Official sources said there were no specific security threats but the police and other law enforcement agencies were asked to remain on their toes to make Muharram a peaceful month for the mourners.

For this purpose, all types of leaves for policemen are canceled while new postings and transfers are banned till Ashura, a police official said. “The entire police staff is being mobilized to implement the security strategy”.

Earlier, police high-ups held several meetings with the religious leaders and scholars of different schools of thought to take all the communities into confidence. The deployment of police force, details of the scheduled mourning processions, and Majalis, and security strategies were shared with the administration of Imambargahs during the deliberations. Similarly, all the license-holders of mourning processions and organizers and managers of Majalis and Imambargahs recommended proposals to ensure foolproof security for the mourners.

Furthermore, the authorities have decided to put all those under surveillance whose names have been included in the fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

Capital City Police Officer Muhammad Amin Wains has called for observing tolerance and religious harmony during the holy month. He urged the religious leaders to teach brotherhood and inter-faith harmony to their followers as police implemented the biggest security operation in Lahore.

The city police chief has warned that there would be zero-tolerance against the elements found involved in stoking sectarianism. “This is our humble request to all of you that controversial speakers, firebrand clerics, and those who are banned by the government, should not be invited to address Majalis and processions,” the officer told a gathering of Shia leaders, last week.

Mr Wains further said that the police would fully implement the standard operating procedure.

According to the SOP, heavy police contingents are deployed in the sensitive and most sensitive areas to protect the mourners at Majalis, processions, and Imambargahs. Similarly, the Dolphins police force and the Police Response Units will continue armed patrolling in sensitive areas. The participants of Majalis and processions will be allowed to enter the venues after proper physical search at three to four different points. “There will be three-layer security for processions on Ashura,” a police officer explained.

DIG Operation Dr Haider Ashraf said that search operations were being conducted on a daily basis and combing operations would also continue in all Afghan settlements. Security will remain on high-alert at the entry and exit points of the city, he said. “Muharram security always remains a challenging task in this metropolis. We have put in place a comprehensive plan for the security of all the mourning processions during Muharram”.

According to the DIG Operations, the religious scholars from all schools of thought had been taken into confidence while preparing the security strategy for the processions and Majaalis. He also appealed to the people to cooperate with law enforcers to ensure sectarian harmony in the society.

This year again, the provincial government is taking unprecedented security steps to maintain law and order during the holy month of Muharram with massive deployment of security personnel.

In addition to 135,000 strong provincial police, the paramilitary troops and Elite police commandoes would remain on standby to meet any untoward happening.

Sources in the Punjab Home Department say the government is planning deployment of paramilitary troops in the most sensitive districts of the province. The paramilitary troops are likely to be employed in 10 sensitive districts including Lahore, Faisalabad, Jhang, Sheikhupura, and Rawalpindi among others. A police officer said that some 36 elite teams of “Reserves” will remain on standby for four districts including Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi.

Similarly, 48 Punjab Constabulary platoons would also remain on high-alert to meet any untoward situation during Muharram. “It has been decided that 55 Companies of Pakistan Army and 28 of Punjab Rangers would also remain on standby,” the officer said.

Keeping in view the recommendations and requirements, it was decided that at least 135098 police officers and officials would be deployed across the province to provide security cover to 9997 processions and 37888 religious gatherings. The police are directed to step up security at 801 sensitive and 288 most sensitive “flashing points” in 10 big cities of the Punjab.