LAHORE/KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Millions of Shi’ite Muslims will perform mourning rituals on Tuesday to mark Ashura, the holiest festival in their calendar, amid heightened measures in many places across the country.
Ashura falls on the 10th day of the lunar calendar month of Muharram and commemorates the martyrdom in 680 AD of Imam Hussain Ibn Ali (R.A.), a grandson of Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H.), near Karbala in what is now Iraq.
Shi’ites mark the festival with large public rituals, sometimes involving bloody self-flagellation or cutting to signify a link with the sufferings of Hussain (R.A.), whose martyrdom symbolises a wider struggle against oppression and tyranny.
The martyrdom of Hussain eventually led to the division of Islam into the two main Sunni and Shi’ite sects and in recent years, the festival has been scarred by bloody sectarian attacks in some countries.
Mourning processions will be taken out in cities and towns across the country.
The azadars (mourners) will pay glowing tributes to sacrifices offered by Hussain (R.A.) and his companions for the supremacy of Islam.
The mourners would pass through their prescribed routes and processions will culminate in their prescribed places.
Shi’ite Muslims make up about 20 percent of Pakistan’s population. The rest are mostly Sunni Muslims.
Meanwhile, in connection with the first day of Ashura, Muharram 9, today, countrywide mourning processions will be taken out in memory of the martyrs of the Battle of Karbala fought between the army of Yazid I, the second Umayyad caliph, and a small group of faithful led by Hussain (R.A.).
Elaborate security arrangements have been made to avoid any untoward incident during the mourning processions.
In Lahore, more than 10,000 police, including 370 women personnel, will perform security duties on Monday and Tuesday.
On Tuesday, 227 congregations will be organised while 47 processions will be held across Punjab. The Punjab government has imposed a ban on pillion riding.
Furthermore, mobile phone services will be suspended along the routes of processions planned in major cities in a bid to foil remote-controlled bombings. Police have also set up extra checkpoints and imposed restrictions on movement in some areas.
The programme organisers have also been directed to ensure adherence to the code of conduct, route and timings.
In Karachi, the main procession will begin from Nishtar Park at Parsi Colony at 1:00 pm, pass through M.A. Jinnah Road, Saddar’s Empress Market, Tibet Centre and end at Hussainian Iranian imambargah in Kharadar.
The 500-year-old historical procession of No Dhala Tazia in Rohri is moving on the traditional route.
Whereas, in Islamabad, the main procession will emerge from Asna Ashri imambargah in Sector G-6/2 and will culminate at the same place after passing through its traditional route.
Peshawar’s procession will depart from Imam Bargah Hussainia Hall at 10:00 am, and the main procession in Quetta will depart from Mekangi Road at 1:30 pm.