Pakistan’s shrines have been the spotlight recently, first due to terrorism, and then due to a mass killing at a shrine. Shrines have become an easy target of criminal activity because there is no scrutiny of anyone who walks in. They are often in secluded areas which means that there is a lack of security, and often there is no access to emergency services.

Several reports have been coming to the fore about threats to other shrines as well. The shrine of famous Sufi saint Syed Saman Shah Sarkar near Pangrio town was closed for ‘security reasons’ in the wake of the devastating suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar that killed 70. The shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Saeedi Mosani in Dadu was also sealed due to security threats and a commando police force was deployed in the area surrounding the shrine. Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) have compiled a report identifying 200 shrines and tombs that are facing threats in Karachi. Though this tightening of security had started already, the mass murder in Sargodha suggests that even when there is no terrorist threat, monitoring of what goes on at shrines and mosques is necessary.

The district administration in Rawalpindi on Monday gave a deadline of 10 days to the Auqaf department and custodians to improve security of shrines otherwise the premises would be sealed. In Sindh, the government is seeing to better security for shrines coming under the provincial Auqaf department, making sure they have a proper system, funds and staff for their regular operation. In March it was decided that all shrines under the administrative control of Auqaf shall arrange their security personnel, while the Sindh police will assist the security personnel in training and technical know-how about the walkthrough gates, baggage scanners and CCTV cameras. However, the challenge would be the shrines thath are not under Auqaf’s control. The shrine in Sargodha was one such shrine that was not registered with the government.

While deadlines to provide better security must be met by these shrines, the government has to improve the security network of the area. Asking them to construct boundary walls and install security gadgets will only temporarily improve the situation. We witnessed in the case of Sehwan as well, that there was a security lapse; the police deployed in the area was meagre and the close circuit TV cameras were non-functional. Citizens can only do so much without the government playing its part.