LAHORE -  All mourning processions in big cities and small towns ended peacefully across the Punjab province on Ashura amid unprecedented safety measures.

No less than 200,000 police were deployed on the procession routes to ensure foolproof security for the mourners in the country’s biggest province.

In Lahore, over 17,000 police were employed to maintain peace and law and order. Heavy police contingents were seen on-guard on the route of the central procession with sharp-shooters on the rooftop of nearby buildings.

The central Zuljinnah procession, taken out from Nisar Havaili inside Mochi Gate, was ended at Karbala Gamay Shah after passing through traditional routes on Wednesday evening.

Military and paramilitary troops remained on standby as the provincial police successfully carried out one of the biggest security operations amid militant threats. Police used drones to monitor the processions in addition to aerial surveillance with the help of a helicopter.

Mobile phones and internet services were partially suspended in nine districts of the province including Lahore, Gujranwala, Jhang, Faisalabad, Sargodha, and Jhelum. Pillion riding was also banned in Lahore for Ashura as police arrested dozens of violators amid clampdown.

Mourners were seen beating themselves during the main Zuljinnah procession on the 10th of Muharram, which is the mourning month in remembrance of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS), the grandson of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Many of them were beating themselves with chains and knives.

The Edhi foundation deployed over 50 ambulances and 150 volunteers to provide medical treatment to the mourners. A number of special Sabeels of milk and water were arranged for the mourners on the route of the processions. The participants were also served free food items and juices.

Following the pattern of safe city project, at least 270 CCTV cameras were installed to monitor the processions in Lahore. The police also recorded videos of all the main processions as part of the security strategy. Armed patrolling was intensified across Lahore with 2000 cops of the patrolling units including Dolphin and Mobile Squads.

This year, the provincial police made unprecedented security arrangements amid serious threats. The police remained on-guard at duty points even one hour after the processions ended peacefully. All types of leaves for policemen were canceled while new postings and transfers were banned till Ashura.

At least 5500 Majalis and 650 processions were held in Lahore during the first 10 days of the holy month.

Lahore DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf yesterday told The Nation that the combing operations launched in Punjab days before the start of Muharram had created deterrence. He said the police implemented a comprehensive security strategy. “We put in place a set of safety measures that included security weep, deployment, human resource, IT, coordination, and cooperation.”

Haider Ashraf further said that “security and law and order” were two basic challenges for the police during Ashura. “Policemen performed well on both the fronts,” he said.

Responding to a question, the DIG said that the security plan was put into practice as per the standard operating procedure. “We improve the SOP every year. We note our shortfalls and learn from our mistakes,” Ashraf added.

The operations police chief also lauded the efforts of security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies for helping the city police department ensure best security arrangement on crucial event. “Obviously, we had input from ISI, MI, IB, and Special Branch. We are thankful to them for their contribution and untiring efforts,” he said.

The officer further said that the newly-launched integrated command and control system proved very effective in security monitoring.

Ashraf says the city police this year received great cooperation and important information from the public. “The citizen’s cooperation is vital in maintaining law and order. We are winning the confidence of the people and that’s a great thing.”

Last week, police officer Arif Nawaz said that at least 200,000 police officers and officials would perform security duties during Muharram processions and Majalis. Similarly, at least 43000 “Police Qaumi Razakar” and 98000 volunteers will also help police ensure best security for mourners.

According to official sources, the police and other law enforcement agencies were asked to remain on their toes to make Muharram a peaceful month amid security threats. A few days ago, the provincial Home department issued a threat-alert stating that “a suicide bomber may target mourning procession in Faisalabad”.

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.

Furthermore, hundreds of clerics named in the fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act were put under surveillance across Punjab. The police warned that there would be zero-tolerance against the elements found involved in stoking sectarianism. Dozens of controversial speakers and firebrand clerics were banned by the government as well.

Also, Punjab IGP Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera yesterday appreciated his force for dedicated duties during Muharam especially on 9th and 10th. He said, despite threats of terror attacks, Punjab Police provided foolproof security to processions and Majalis and proved to be one of the best forces in world which has the ability to deal any challenge in any situation.

In his message to the police force, the IGP said: “I hope that Punjab police will work with same spirit and dedication which showed in Muharram and will leave no stone unturned to maintain law and order in the province.”

According to a police spokesman, IGP Sukhera further said that the Punjab police are legatee of hundreds of martyrs which is a clear evidence that officers and officials of Punjab police have always present their lives to protect life, property, and honour of the citizens and they will not hesitate to sacrifice their lives to fulfill their duty in future as well.