Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday blocked cellular services in over 50 towns and cities, including Islamabad, to prevent terror attacks on Shia processions to commemorate the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of the most revered Shia figures. Officials of the Interior Ministry have contended that mobile phones are used to trigger improvised explosive devices.
They have further said that mobile phones are used for communications between terrorists and their handlers. Authorities have blocked mobile phones in towns and cities across Pakistan several times this year, including during the Eid festival, to thwart possible terror attacks.
However, the move has angered mobile phone users and rights groups, which have said the government should find other ways to counter terrorists as the blocking of cellular services causes tremendous inconvenience to the people. Officials said mobile phone services would remain suspended from 8 am to 11 pm as part of the security plan for the 'Chehlum' of Imam Hussain that marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures, by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD.
At some places like Peshawar, services would be restored by 5 pm, they said. Quetta, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Multan, Sargodha, Bahawalpur, Hyderabad, Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu were among the cities where phone services were blocked.
Services were suspended in 18 districts of Punjab province, nine in Balochistan and six each in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said all cellular service providers were informed about the decision taken by the Interior Ministry.
Pillion riding on motorcycles too was banned in sensitive areas across the country as the two-wheelers have been used in many recent terror attacks. During the Islamic holy month of Muharram, dozens were killed when the Taliban targeted several Shia processions.