LAHORE - Christians celebrated Christmas with traditional fervour and zeal in the provincial capital on Friday.

Muslims and other communities in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have joined the celebrations to show solidarity with Christians.

Politicians and religious leaders cut cakes and addressed the ceremonies at different places of the city. Boys and girls went from house to house while singing carol singing.

Services were held at all churches every hour. People distributed sweets and freshly baked rich plum cakes among the fellow Christians, while Santas brought presents for children.

Christmas trees lit with small decorative electric lights, small bells and miniature models depicting the angels, Christmas Father and other symbolic figures related to the season were placed at different places.

Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed most commonly on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.

Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, including Pakistan because it coincides with the birthday of the country’s founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Christians make up the largest religious minority in Pakistan. The total numbers of Christians in the country were estimated at 2.5 million in 2005, or 1.6% of the population. Of these, approximately half are Roman Catholic and half Protestant.

Lawmen have already mounted one of the biggest security operations in Lahore to provide foolproof security to the Christians.

DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf said the other day that the police were put on their toes to maintain peace and harmony in the city. “We have taken all possible security measures to protect Christian community and to thwart the nefarious designs of anti-state elements,” the operations police chief said.

The DIG said that there was no specific security threat to the Christian community in Lahore. However, police are taking concrete measures to protect the community.

“Hundreds of police commandoes will guard churches on the eve of Christmas and we will do everything possible to protect our Christian community,” the senior officer said.

The DIG said that there will be three-layer security around churches and every person will be allowed entry only after frisking and proper body search at the checkpoints. The field officers are directed to use metal-detectors and walkthrough gates for physical-checking around sensitive places while snap-checking was intensified at the entry and exit points of the metropolis.

Apart from police commandoes, policewomen are also taking part in security operations. Dozens of sharp-shooters are also deployed on high-rise buildings in the sensitive localities. Several CCTV cameras are installed around the churches where a number of plainclothesmen are also deployed to deeply monitor the security situation.

A police spokesperson said that search operations against strangers are underway across the city. Police yesterday night detained over 20 suspects during search and security sweep launched in different parts of the metropolis, the spokesman said.

Police sources said that all the superintendents of police (SPs) were directed to personally check the deployment of police force in their respective jurisdiction. A police officer said that a central control room had already been activated at the office of Lahore DIG (Operations) from where cops are monitoring security situation minute-by-minute.