Thousands to guard churches on Christmas

LAHORE – More than 40,000 police will be deployed to guard churches across the Punjab province ahead of Christmas, a senior official said Wednesday.

The provincial authorities are taking unprecedented security measures to protect the worships places of minorities amid terror threats. Police security was heightened in the Punjab province after Sunday’s gun and bomb attack on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Balochistan.  At least nine people were killed and 30 injured when suicide bombers targeted the worshippers amid prayers.

A senior police official said that there were no specific security threats with regard to Christmas in Punjab but authorities were taking “unprecedented security measures” to protect minorities since they could be soft target of desperate terrorists.

Punjab Inspector General of Police Arif Nawaz Khan on Wednesday said that a comprehensive strategy should be evolved to provide foolproof security to all worship places of minorities especially Churches and other sensitive markets and recreational sites on the occasion of Christmas.

The IGP stated this while presiding over a video-link conference at the central police office. All the regional and district police officers attended the conference via video-link. Additional-IG Muhammad Tahir, Faisal Shahkar, Azhar Hameed Kokhar, Rai Muhammad Tahir, DIG Amir Zulfiqar Khan and BA Nasir were present in the meeting.

The IGP also directed the RPOs and DPOs to strictly monitor the activities of the members of defunct organizations and individuals of the 4th Schedule. According to an official handout issued from the central police office, search operations and intelligence based combing operations are being conducted in the vicinities of churches. “More than 40,000 police personnel will perform security duties on the occasion of Christmas.”

Also, on the eve of New-Year night, aerial firing, one wheeling and immoral activities should be dealt with iron hands and police are ordered to launch a crackdown against the miscreants. The IGP said that a crackdown against drug-pushers especially against alcohol sellers must be launched ahead of the New

The police chief said that CCTV cameras, walkthrough gates, and metal detectors should be used at the entry and exit points of worship places for security purposes. He also said that snipers and police commandos in plainclothes should be deployed on top of nearby buildings of worship places and also inside churches. The police chief was informed that special control rooms have been established to monitor the security of important markets, churches, and parks. The Dolphins Force and Police Response Units will continue armed patrolling around churches during prayers.

According to the security plan, thousands of police will be deployed at shopping plazas, markets, food streets, and foreign food chains. The police are also directed to ensure best security during the movement of foreigners in all districts of the Punjab.  Also, the IGP said that heavy police would be deployed around parks and recreational places, because after performance of religious rites, the Christian families visit such places to celebrate the event.  The police chief also directed the field officers to follow the set SOPs and not allow anybody to enter into parks without permission and also arrange separate places for parking of vehicles. The police were also directed to take strict action against eve-teasers and troublemakers and those found involved in one-wheeling, aerial firing at dancing and musical parties.  The police chief said that a crackdown should be started against miscreants and the people who destroy the properties of citizens. He said that on the eve of New Year night a massive crackdown should be launched against bootleggers. The owners of local wine producing units should be arrested at once.





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