Extra police, volunteers to be drafted in to ensure festive season passes peacefully
Pakistani Christians attend a candle light carol service during a Christmas celebration in Lahore on Dec. 19. (Photo by Arif Ali/AFP)
Police in Pakistan are increasing security measures to protect Christians attending Christmas celebrations.
Christians in the Punjab city of Lahore — where churches have been targeted by suicide bombers in the past — have been assured by police they will be provided extra security during Christmas.
Police Captain retd. Mustansir Feroz told church officials at a meeting in Lahore last week that police are focusing on sensitive areas.
"Along with patrols and search operations, we will do mock exercises at churches declared sensitive and at entertainment parks," Feroz said.
He said CCTV cameras were being installed at specific entrance points to monitor any suspicious activity.
"Vehicle parking areas for people going to church will be at least 100 meters away from the church itself," he said in describing other security precautions.
In 2015, fifteen people were killed and more than 70 injured when two Taliban suicide bombers attacked churches during Sunday services in Lahore. Islamic terrorists targeted Christians at a Lahore park during Easter, 2017. At least 72 people were killed in the bomb attack.
More than 1,500 police will be deployed in the twin cities of Islamabad-Rawalpindi also in northern Punjab to provide extra security for Christians during the Christmas period.
Father Qaisar Feroz, executive secretary of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference, told ucanews.com that local Catholics appreciate police efforts during this busy period.
"Christmas and New Year Prayer meetings attracts three times as many people than usual," Father Feroz said. "My parish is preparing to host more than 1,000 people for Christmas Midnight Mass," he said.
Anthony Naveed, a Catholic and a member of the Sindh provincial assembly, is working with government and police officials in the southeastern province to ensure proper security arrangements are in place for Christmas.
"Hearing the concerns of church leaders the police have organized training for young men to serve as security officials during the Christmas prayer services," Naveed told ucanews.com.
"More than 150 Christian men will be trained to work with church security groups already providing protection during Sunday prayer services," he added.
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