LAHORE -  The 973rd Urs of Hazrat Usman Ali Hajvery, known as Data Gunj Bakhsh, will be commencing today with massive police deployment to protect devotees amid militant threats.

Authorities yesterday finalized arrangements for the three-day Urs as tens of thousands of people started visiting the shire from across the country. The Urs will conclude on Monday – the day the Shias will observe Chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA), the grandson of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

The city police mounted one of the biggest security operations to ensure foolproof security for the events.

Over 10,000 police are deployed across the old city to protect devotees and mourners as the provincial government sounded high-alert in the metropolis.

Militants had targeted such ceremonies in Lahore in the past.

In 2010, dozens of people had died and over 150 wounded when two suicide bombers struck the shrine of Ali Hajvery.

In 2011, 11 people had been killed and 71 injured in a suicide attack on Chehlum procession at the Urdu Bazaar intersection on Circular Road.

Security was stepped up at shrines across the Punjab province after a suicide bomber struck the historic shrine of Shah Noorani in Balochistan that claimed 60 lives last week.

Over a hundred were wounded when a teen terrorist blew himself up among the crowds of devotees in the remote mountainous region of Khuzdar district on Saturday evening.

Authorities have proposed ban on pillion riding in Lahore for the Chehlum procession. Also, the cellular phone service will remain suspended on the route of the central procession from on Monday. The Chehlum procession will be taken out from Nisar Havaily inside Mochi Gate and would end at Karbala Gamay Shah after passing through traditional routes on Monday evening.

A senior police officer yesterday told The Nation that over 10,000 police was mobilized to implement the security strategy in Lahore to protect mourners and devotees.

Lahore DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf says that the mourners and devotees would be provided four-layer security. The police will completely seal off the route of the procession by placing containers and barriers. Nobody will be allowed to enter the procession or shrine premises sans body search.

“We are applying a set of safety measures that included security weep, deployment, human resource, IT, coordination, and cooperation. The standard operating procedure devised for the Muharram procession will be implemented for Chehlum procession,” the officer explained.

City police last night launched combing operations in various parts of the metropolis particularly in the surrounding of Data Darbar and inside the walled city. A police spokesman said the security sweep part of the police efforts to create deterrence. He said the police were implementing a comprehensive security strategy to maintain peace during the mega events.

At least 270 CCTV cameras have been installed to monitor the main procession in Lahore. The police will also record videos of the procession as part of the security strategy. Armed patrolling will be intensified across Lahore with 2000 cops of the patrolling units including Dolphin and Mobile Squads.

This year, police made unprecedented security arrangements amid serious threats. All types of leaves for policemen have been canceled. Heavy police contingents will guard the route of the central procession with sharp-shooters on the rooftop of nearby buildings. Police intensified checking at the entry and exit points of the city.

The Auqaf Department has already completed arrangements for the Urs of Data Darbar. The city district government, like previous years, will announce local holiday on Monday in connection with Urs and Chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA). Also, police will use drones to monitor the Chehlum procession in addition to aerial surveillance with the help of a helicopter.