LAHORE - Police yesterday mounted one of the biggest security operations in Punjab to protect mourners as army and paramilitary troops remain on standby.

In Lahore, police sealed off the old city with massive deployment on the route of the central procession.

Tens of thousands of police were deployed throughout the province to guard mourning processions amid security threats. Cops were put on high alert in border districts while police intensified checking at the entry and exit points of the big cites.

The district government banned pillion riding in Lahore for the 9th and 10th of Muharram-al-Haram. The cellular phone service remained suspended on the route of the central procession till Wednesday night.

A senior police officer yesterday told The Nation that the entire police staff was mobilised to implement the security strategy in the province. “The Punjab police (alone) are carrying out the biggest security operation with regard to crucial Muharram security. The military and paramilitary troops (Punjab Rangers) are on standby. They are on call (in case of any untoward happening),” Punjab DIG (Operations) Aamir Zulfiqar Khan said. “So far, there is no plan to deploy paramilitary troops.”

Last week, a provincial officer Arif Nawaz briefed the police chief about the security deployment. He 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 Muharram processions and Majalis.

The police were also directed to ensure video recordings of all major and sensitive processions and Majalis. Police activated special operations room to monitor security of the processions in all Punjab districts in addition to the central operations room in Lahore.

More than 17,000 police and volunteers are performing security duties in the provincial metropolis where 5327 Majalis and 650 mourning processions are scheduled.

Capital City Police Officer Capt (r) Muhammad Amin Wains said that a comprehensive strategy was put in place to provide security to Majalis and mourning processions during Ashura.

“Following the pattern of safe city project, at least 270 CCTV cameras are installed to monitor processions,” the city police chief said.

Armed patrolling was intensified across Lahore with 2000 cops of the patrolling units including Dolphin and Mobile Squads. Heavy police contingents were deployed on the route of several mourning processions in Lahore yesterday.

Senior police officers were seen monitoring the security deployment in Islampura’s Pando Street for the procession of 9th Muharram-ul-Haram. The participants were provided three-layer security.

The city police also intensified snap-checking at the entry and exit points. A police spokesman said that dozens of motorcyclists were booked by police for violating the ban on pillion riding.

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”.

All types of leaves for policemen are cancelled while new postings and transfers are banned till Ashura.

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. Similarly, all the license-holders of mourning processions and organisers and managers of Majalis and Imambargahs recommended proposals to ensure foolproof security for the mourners.

Furthermore, hundreds of clerics named in the fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act have been 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 are banned by the government and they cannot address Majalis and processions.