LAHORE - Hundreds of police Thursday launched a massive security sweep in many parts of the provincial metropolis ahead of the ousted prime minister’s homecoming.
A senior police official said they would throw a massive security blanket across the city on Saturday when Nawaz Sharif will reach his hometown leading massive public rallies. Some 7,000 police will guard the route of the rally.
City police on Thursday evening launched security sweep on the route of the rally with the help of metal detectors and sniffer dogs. Hundreds of cops are taking part in the security operations in the city police division and its adjacent areas.
In residential localities, policemen are using biometric machines to verify the particulars of individuals during house-to-house searches. The shops, markets, and high-rise buildings located on both sides of the route were also being searched.
Officials said that snipers would be deployed on the rooftop of high-rises to keep a vigilant eye on the activities of the miscreants. Similarly, armed patrolling was also intensified across the city. They said that some 200 CCTV cameras were being installed on the rally route from Shahdara to Data Darbar to digitally monitor the security situation. Police also began search operations in the surrounding areas to hunt down suspected militants.
Several special control rooms have been activated in Lahore and the security monitoring would be ensured from the high-tech command, control, and communication center, operating under the Punjab Safe City Authority. The city traffic police department will implement a detailed diversion plan to ensure smooth flow of traffic on city road.
Furthermore, police and paramilitary troops are put on high-alert at all the entry and exit points of the metropolis. They were directed to ensure complete search of passengers and vehicles before allowing them entry to the metropolis.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) preparations have reached the peak, but arrival of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s caravan in the city is likely to be delayed. It was announced earlier that former prime minister’s caravan will arrive in the city on Friday (today).
The party leadership in the city is making preparations keeping in view the pace of Sharif’s caravan. In Rawalpindi, the caravan took more than 12 hours to reach GT Road. However, the caravan got some speed on GT Road to reach Jhelum well before the sunset on Thursday. According to the original plan, Sharif’s caravan was scheduled to arrive in Jhelum on Wednesday evening. After overnight stay in Jhelum, the rally will resume its journey to Gujranwala, where it would have an overnight stay. Finally, the rally will leave for Lahore on Saturday morning. The party expects the size of the former prime minister’s procession will swell manifolds after it crosses Gujrat and enters the Gujranwala area. This marathon rally will provide the former prime minister a good opportunity to grab the attention of the local and international media and show his popularity among the masses despite his disqualification by the Supreme Court.
The former prime minister will enter the city via Shahdara. After entering the city, he will first visit the shrine of Data Sahib. The venue of his address to a gathering in Lahore is being kept secret. The PML-N leadership, provincial administration and security agencies have made elaborate security arrangements for Sharif’s address, which is going to be crux of everything he would utter during his journey from Islamabad to Lahore.
A long queue of containers has been put up at Shahdara Chowk, another at Azadi Chowk and yet another at a little distance from it. These points are being used as reception camps, but they will be converted into stages for the former prime minister before his arrival in the city.
Foolproof security arrangements are being made for the former prime minister here. Police and other security agencies are holding drills to provide maximum security to his procession. Strict checking of people visiting the shrine of Data Sahib, Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore Fort, Badami Bagh Bus Stand and other public places in the city is being ensured. The Lahore Metro Bus Service is likely to be suspended before former prime minister’s arrival in the city. The bus service was suspended in Rawalpindi during prime minister’s rally. It has been announced however that the bus route will be cut short, but the service will not be suspended on former prime minister’s arrival in the city.
Extensive welcome arrangements are being made from Kala Shah Kaku to former premier’s residence in Raiwind. Reception camps have been set up from the entrance near Shahdara up to the shrine of Data Sahib by the party legislators and local body representatives. The entire route of the rally from Shahdara to the Walled City has been decorated with life-size portraits of Nawaz Sharif, PML-N flags, posters, banners, steamers, flexes and buntings. At various points along the route, sound systems have been installed to play party songs. Extensive lighting arrangements have been made at signal-free Azadi Chowk Bridge and beyond.
On the arrival of Nawaz Sharif here in the city, goats will be sacrificed as a ritual for safety of the former prime minister. Dancing horses will also perform on the arrival of the caravan. However, there is a ban on the release of pigeons and balloons into the air due to security reasons. The venue where the former prime minister will address people would be searched through trained sniffer dogs and detectors. Party workers and supporters will pass through the scanners to reach the reception camps. Shops on the day of arrival of Sharif will remain closed and snipers will be deployed on rooftops along the route of Sharif’s caravan. Aerial surveillance of the route will also be done. There are reports that Rangers would be engaged to maintain the law and order on the day of rally’s arrival in the city.
The PML-N has formed various committees to take care of the welcome arrangements. These committees have been assigned the duty to provide food, water and other eatables to the rally participants and those coming to welcome the rally. Special parking arrangements have been made for cars, buses and trucks accompanying the caravan.
Federal Minister for Trade Pervez Malik said the former prime minister would be accorded a historic welcome on his arrival in the city.