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KP security increased during Ramadan
Mosques, markets protected nationwide to thwart terrorism
By Javed Aziz Khan
PESHAWAR – Security has been increased throughout Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and nationwide during Ramadan to help preserve law and order and prevent terrorist attacks.
“We have deployed more contingents in the trade centres while security has been increased around the mosques during prayers and Taraveeh time,” KP Inspector General of Police for KP Fiaz Ahmad Toru said. Thousands of Muslims throng mosques for five prayers a day. They remain packed during Isha evening prayers when worshippers offer special prayers for Ramadan (Taraveeh).
Plainclothes agents also are watching trade centres for suspicious activity, Toru said.
Long list of vulnerable sites
The Home Department of KP issued an order declaring 900 mosques, 200 Imambargahs and 13 districts as “sensitive” during the holy month.
Peshawar is one of the 13 districts, with more than 60 places of worship listed as sites to protect.
“We have taken adequate measures to ensure security in and around the city ... The entry points have been properly secured, while the police force is staying alert in rural parts of the city near the tribal areas,” Senior Superintendent of Police Ijaz Ahmad told Central Asia Online.
Militants had fired several mortar shells at the villages of Adezai and Matani from the nearby tribal areas during the first week of Ramadan. Though they caused no reported casualties, the attack triggered fear in the already volatile town.
Security forces carried out an operation in villages bordering tribal areas to discourage militant attacks on Peshawar during Ramadan. The operation killed a top militant commander, Ahmad said.
Food spots and trade centres are thronged with shoppers before Iftars, making them easy targets for terrorists looking to kill and injure large numbers of people.
“The vehicles entering the Saddar Bazaar and Qissa Khwani are being properly checked, and cops on over 114 police posts at entry points have been further alerted,” said police official Iftikhar Ahmad. Police also frisk suspicious individuals.
Militants' effectiveness waning
Militants struck on a number of occasions last year during Ramadan after unprecedented flooding left millions in the province homeless. Large terrorist explosions in Peshawar, Lakki Marwat, Quetta and Lahore killed dozens – mostly fasting Muslims.
This year, militants have had less success. In a cross-border attack on Sro Kelay in Upper Dir in the first week of Ramadan, officials reported no casualties. Small attacks in Peshawar also have failed to cause any casualties, according to officials.
In Mohmand Agency, a suicide bomber blew himself up while another ran away when soldiers challenged them in the main Ghalanai Bazaar August 6. Militants set ablaze several houses in Kurram Agency August 8.
“They are carrying out minor attacks, but the security measures taken by the police and other forces are not letting them cause major destruction,” said Iftikhar.
Punjab security forces have been on high alert in Lahore and in the southern part of the province.
“We have increased patrolling, and police have been directed to ensure strictest security at sensitive places,” said Waqas Nazir, the district police officer in Mianwali.
In Karachi, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary (FC) members have been deployed in addition to police to maintain law and order during Ramadan. FC troops also assist the KP police in many instances.
Civilians suggest remedies
“The police should increase patrolling on Ring Road as well as in the suburban localities so the terrorists could not enter the provincial capital,” said Ali Raza Bangash, a resident of interior Peshawar. “Also, a search operation in the urban areas is a must to find criminals and terrorists residing inside the city.”
Another Peshawarite, Haji Yaqoob, urged deployment of policewomen in busy trade centres as militants have recently begun using females to carry out attacks.
Apart from terrorism, robberies and thefts surge as night-time parties and games become more frequent during Ramadan. Three people were killed and another wounded in one robbery attempt in Badaber August 8.
“We are looking into the incident. Two of the dacoits (robbers) were killed by the firing of their accomplices, while we would arrest the rest of the members soon,” said Fazal Wahid, an officer of the Badaber police station. He added that authorities are conducting raids against the culprits and have taken steps to counter similar future incidents.