LAHORE - City braces for two mega events this week - the much-needed Pakistan vs World-XI cricket series and the much-hyped by-polls in NA 120 – that pose a big challenge for the Lahore police.

Tens of thousands of policemen are put on their toes. All types of leaves for the cops are cancelled. All will remain in the field, right from the capital city police officer to a foot constable, with patrolling squads, anti-riot units, and quick response force also being mobilised.

Ahead of the cricket series named as Azadi Cup, or Independence Cup, paramilitary troops are assisting the law enforcing agency in security and combing operations on daily basis. The counter-terrorism department personnel and police have launched door-to-door searches in residential and commercial areas located near the Gaddafi stadium and around the hotel, where the international players will stay.

Big lights are installed with heavy generators on both sides of players’ route from the hotel to the stadium as part of security measures for the rare series involving foreign players in this cricket-loving nation. The city traffic police department has issued a special traffic advisory plan with massive diversion points.

Hundreds of traffic officers and policemen are called in to help city police department meet the staff shortage in Lahore. Several high-tech police operations rooms are activated in addition to the control rooms being operated from the headquarters of the Punjab Safe City Authority. And, thousands of police are conducting full-dress rehearsal for the mega series.

During a brief chat with The Nation on Sunday, Lahore’s DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf said that every person will be allowed access towards the stadium after physical search at three different points. The department will provide food and water bottles to the policemen at their duty points.

“For the security of such mega event, we will follow the standard operating procedure (devised for the last PSL Final match early this year). There will be massive deployment of force with Quick Response Units. Also, police patrolling units will be engaged in security operations and Police Reserves will remain on standby,” said chief of the city’s operations police.

“Every officer will play his role to make this event a success. Our Jawans will perform their duties passionately. We are also holding special security briefing on a daily basis,” the officer said. “(Under present scenario) security for the mega events will be a challenging task. Lahore police has accepted this challenge and we are going to put in place a comprehensive security plan to make the mega cricket a complete success,” Ashraf added.

The DIG further said that the city police department would take various important steps to ensure smooth and safe passage for the motorcades of the cricket team. “We have launched combing operations in the city. Security situation will be closely monitored through different operation rooms.”

Even on Sunday, several deliberations took place at the police headquarters in Lahore. Punjab Inspector General of Police Arif Nawaz Khan presided over the hours-long meeting held at the head office of the Punjab Safe City Authority.

City police chief Amin Wains, DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf, SSP (Admin) Rana Ayaz Saleem, SSP (Operations) Athar Ismial Amjad, SSP (Investigations) Ghulam Mubashar Maikan, Chief Traffic Officer Rai Ijaz Ahmad and all divisional SPs were also attended the meeting besides others.

On this occasion, IGP Arif Nawaz Khan directed the officers to utilise “all available resources” to make foolproof security arrangements during the visit of World-Eleven to Pakistan. The police chief also ordered the officers implement a comprehensive plan for the security of both the cricket teams on the pattern of last PSL Final in Lahore.

The IGP asked the officers to implement a best and practical strategy while keeping in mind that the police actions would not create trouble for the citizens. He directed the Chief Traffic Officer to inform the citizens about alternate routes and traffic plan through electronic and print media prior to the event.

Arif Nawaz also called for intelligence based search, sweep, and combing operations around the Qaddafi Stadium and along the route from hotel to the Stadium on a daily basis. The CCPO was directed to ensure backup security for the teams’ cavalcade when they will depart the hotel for the stadium or leave the stadium. The IGP said that plainclothesmen should be employed on the route from hotel to stadium and snipers should be deployed on the high-rise structures along the route.

Similarly, police commandoes will be deployed in different enclosures after special briefings so that they would handle cricket fans politely during the checking. Also, the provincial police chief directed the staff of Safe City Authority to keep vigil on all kinds of activities around the stadium and on the route from hotel to stadium. He directed the officers to brief the officials on their duty and the current delicate situation before making their deployment at different points.

The cricket series will end on Sept 15 and the election re-run in Lahore’s NA-120 will take place on September 17. The police, paramilitary troops, and counterterrorism department officials will have to time to take rest. However, they will remain on their toes throughout this week.

All the major political parties have fielded their candidates for the by-election. Political pundits say they expect close competition among Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Kalsoom Nawaz, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Dr Yasmeen Rashid and Pakistan People Party’s Faisal Mir.

Hundreds of paramilitary troops will also be deployed around the polling stations in NA-120 to keep the situation under control amid rising political temperature. Both the mega events are seriously a challenging job for the city police. When the cricket series and the by-polls in NA-120 will take place peacefully, the city police will prepare for another challenge, Muharram security.