A suicide bomber targeted a Muharram procession near Shershah Haveli in Jacobabad’s Lashari Mohalla Friday evening, killing at least 20 people and injuring many others, even though strict security arrangements had been made across the country for protection of Muharram processions.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Jacobabad Rakhio Mirani told Pakistan Today that a suicide bomber had managed to breach the security cordon of a Muharram procession comprising Shia women and children and detonated his explosives near a Sabeel (water tank), killing at least 20 people, including 10 children.
Sectarian violence has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade.
The law enforcement agencies in Sindh had found a “nexus between sectarian terrorists and anti-state elements”, posing a threat to peace during Muharram.
The intelligence agencies were told to keep an eye on the Indian intelligence agency RAW during the month, it emerged.
The Sindh government had already imposed a ban on pillion riding in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Larkana. Moreover, cell phone services have also been suspended in major cities, including Karachi, as a security measure during the observance Muharram.
Earlier, processions for 9th Muharram were taken out Friday amid tight security in different cities of Pakistan.
In Lahore, the central Zuljinnah and mourning procession were taken out from Islampura on Friday morning and end at the same place later in the night.
Amongst the 12 districts of Punjab — Lahore, Rawalpindi, Jhang, Rahimyar Khan, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Bhakkar, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bahawalnagar, Chakwal and Pakpattan have been declared “most sensitive”.
The government will shut down cellular services across the province on the day of Ashura, Oct 24, from 8am onwards. A ban on pillion riding is already in place for both days.
Police sources said that local RPOs and DPOs from Punjab would have the option of shutting down mobile services of areas considered flashpoints.
Traders in Rawalpindi especially those of the sealed off area were advised to close their business on Thursday evening for the Muharram 9 and 10 processions.
Containers placed at Ganjamandi, Banni Chowk, Asghar Mall Road, Pirwadhai, College Road, Gawalmandi, City Saddar Road and Kashmiri Bazaar blocked access to the commercially most thriving district of the inner city.
Some 450 close circuit TV cameras installed along the route of the mourning procession have been operational since Tuesday night.
Rawalpindi DCO Sajid Zafar Dall said that this year, sectarian clashes were unlikely, but the administration was guarding against the possibility of a terrorist attack on a Shia procession.
Meanwhile in Lahore, police have issued sketch of a terrorist who might attack Muharram processions in the city. The sketch was also released on media for general public with instructions of contacting police and law enforcement agencies upon receiving information or watching the man in question.
Cellular services in Karachi and adjoining areas started shutting down on Friday while there was no traffic on roads as the Sindh government announced both 9th and 10th Muhrram as public holidays.
For the overall security during the month, the provincial government had allocated more than Rs 100 million.
A comprehensive security plan has been prepared for Imambargahs and Ashura processions in the province and its capital Quetta.
Speaking at a press conference last week, DIG of Quetta Imtiaz Shah told media that over 5,000 security personnel, including those from the Frontier Corps and three battalions of army, would be deployed around Imambargahs and along the routes of mourning processions.
Three army battalions would remain on stand-by.
Senior police officers aboard two helicopters would monitor the main processions of Muharram on 9 and 10 while around 2,500 policemen and personnel of law-enforcement agencies have already been deployed at 56 Imambargahs and 14 other places where women’s Majalis are held.
23 Imambargahs in the city had been declared very sensitive.
Balochistan has been experiencing incident violence and targeted killings since more than a decade. More than 1,400 incidents targeting the minority Shia and Hazara community have taken place in the province during the past 15 years.
On Thursday, a suicide attacker blew himself outside an imambargah in Bolan’s Goth Chalghari area, killing at least 10 people and injuring many others.
In Peshawar, the main procession for 9th Muharram in Peshawar was taken out from Imam Bargah Hussainia Hall Sadar Road early morning.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police had declared Peshawar, Hangu, Kohat and Dera Ismail Khan as the most sensitive districts for Muharram.
According to a statement issued by the police, 429 Muharram processions will be taken out in the province, while 940 majalis will take place during the month.
The police have identified 129 ‘trouble spots’ on procession routes across the province.
The provincial capital has 67 imambargahs from where 121 precessions will be taken out on 9th and 10th of Muharram.
Entry of Afghan nationals and other irrelevant people in Peshawar is banned while pillion riding is not allowed in the interior parts of the city and along procession routes.
Walkthrough gates have been installed to ensure foolproof security.
Pakistan has a history of attacks on religious processions in Islamic holy month of Muharram, especially on 9th and 10th of the month, claimed by banned militant outfits targeting people belonging to Shia sect of Islam.