RAWALPINDI - City District Government Rawalpindi (CDGR) on Monday sealed off all the roads and streets leading to Raja Bazaar with containers, concrete blocks, hand-push carts and barbed wires to avoid sectarian tension between two religious groups on the occasion of Chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA) today (Wednesday).

Heavy contingents of police and Rangers, besides law enforces in civvies, were deployed to avoid any untoward incident. Similarly, Pakistan army has also been patrolling in various parts of the city.

The roads sealed off with heavy hurdles include City Saddar Road, Asghar Mall Road, Kohati Bazaar, Hamilton Road, Taj Company Chowk and Fawara Chowk. The entry and exit points, which have been decided to be closed, included Koral Chowk, Soan Bridge, Faizabad, Railway Carriage Factory, IJ Principal Road, Meharabad (Chishtianabad), Khayaban-e-Sir Syed, Double Road, Dhoke Najo and Chakri Road.

As Raja Bazaar has been declared the most sensitive area of the city in intelligence agencies reports, the CDGR and police also barred administration of DATQ to hold two days “Tahafuz-e-Maddaris-wa-Shuhda-e-Taleem-ul-Quran” conference outside the damaged site of seminary, where a sectarian clash occurred between two religious groups on Youm-e-Ashur. Sources said that air surveillance would also be carried out of procession routes while the Pakistan Army has been put on alert to meet any untoward situation.

The authorities and City Traffic Police (CTP) cut off the city from the rest parts of the country by blocking all the entry and exit points by placing containers and trawlers to avoid any unrest on the occasion of Chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA).

“All these steps were taken to maintain law and order situation and avoid any unwanted incident on the occasion of Chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA),” informed Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Syed Ishtiaq Hussain Shah while talking to The Nation. On a query, he replied that the citizens should stay inside their houses and avoid travelling. 

Meanwhile, Rawalpindi police chalked out a comprehensive security plan. According to police spokesman, over 7,000 security personnel including Elite Force, Special Branch, ladies police, men in civvies, Punjab Constabulary, Qaumi Razakaars, and Rangers would impart duty along with procession route to meet any crunch moment. He said that under the security plan, Pakistan army would be on standby and Ranger would assist the city police on the occasion. The CCTV cameras would also be installed at the routes of processions, besides a search with detectors and sniffer dogs. The pillion riding would also be banned in the city, he said.

The law enforcement agencies would also conduct aerial surveillance of processions. Well-equipped security personnel would also be deputed on the rooftops of different building located along with the routs. All the roads and streets leading toward traditional routs of procession would also be kept under strict check, he said.

A very tight mechanism of body search would also be adopted as no mourner would be allowed without frisking at four different stages by the security personnel and scouts. The law enforcement agencies would conduct search operation in hotel, restaurants in the different parts of the city, the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) launched massive crackdowns in different localities of the city including the residence of Darul Aloom Taleem-ul-Quran caretaker Maulana Ashraf Ali arresting scores of religious figures, traders and others to maintain law and order situation in the city. Hundreds others went into hide to avoid arrest.

A well-placed source in police department told The Nation that the LEAs picked up more than 160 Ulema and other religious personalities of Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) during raids to keep the temperature of the city cool on the occasion of procession.

Police conducted a raid at the residence of DATQ caretaker Maulana Ashraf Ali but could not arrest him as he was not present there. However, police nabbed Mufti Abdul Rehman, Maulana Idrees Haqani and three other guests and shifted them to unknown place, the source added.

“More arrests are expected as police are conducting raids in various places,” a source said, adding that dozens of wanted clerics had gone into hiding following the crackdown.

On the other hand, Shia Ulema Council said that there would be no change in routes of all four processions including traditional and 150-year-old procession, which would be taken out from Imambargah Ashiq Hussain Teli Muhalla and Imambargah Col Maqbool Hussain at 11:00am and would culminate at Imambargah Qadeemi around 11:00pm after passing through various areas including Raja Bazaar in front of DATQ.

“We would not allow anyone to stage any rally or conference on Chehlum procession route. We will arrest everyone who would try to assemble on Chehlum procession routes,” a high-ranking police officer said.

A source also claimed that the government was also pondering to block mobile phone service on the occasion to foil any terror plot. The CDGR has also imposed ban on pillion riding.

All Pakistan Private Schools Association (APPSA) Presidnet Abrar Ahmed Khan said that all the private educational institutions would remain closed on Chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA). The transporters also decided not to ply public transport on roads.

The trade unions also said that they would close the markets, shopping malls and bazaars and petrol pumps in Raja Bazaar, Saddar, City Saddar Road, Peshawar Road and many other areas.