Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Islamabad (Pakistan), Security Precautions during Ashura Processions

This Security Message alerts U.S. citizens that many religious gatherings known as "Majalis" will occur during the first ten days of Muharram (which began October 3rd), culminating in large processions during Ashura on the 8th, 9th, and 10th days (Oct. 10th-12th). The U.S. Mission expects very large processions of up to 50,000 participants in the major cities of Islamabad, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Karachi, and Lahore from Monday, October 10, through Wednesday, October 12. We anticipate heavy police presence throughout the cities and in the vicinity of the larger scheduled processions. The processions have been targets of sectarian violence in the past. Many roads will be blocked or heavily congested. If you are on the road during this period, you should remain alert to your surroundings and be prepared for unexpected road closures. In previous years, there have been large-scale disruptions to cell-phone service during this period. We expect the same this year. We urge you to pay attention to local media for security updates and planned procession routes. Anticipated routes include the following:

Islamabad: The vicinity of Karachi Company in G-9 (8th Muharram, October 10th), G-6/2 1, Melody and Surrounding areas (9th Muharram, October 11th), Rawalpindi Raja Bazar and Surrounding areas, Col. Maqbool Imambargah (10th Muharram, October 12th).

Lahore: The vicinity of the Civil Secretariat, Anarkali, Old Anarkali, Shadman, Islampura and the walled city (in particular Motchi Gate, Kashmiri Bazar, Kotwali, Rang Mahal, Urdu Bazar, Data Darbar, and the Lower Mall area)

Karachi: Processions will march from Nishter Park/Numaish (10 km north of the Consulate), via M.A. Jinnah Road, Saddar, and Bolton Market, to Husanian Iranian in Kharadar (4 km northwest of the Consulate).

Auxiliary processions will also commence from outside downtown Karachi (i.e. Malir, Nazimabad, Liaqatabad, etc.) and move along Shara-e-Faisal, Shara-e-Quaideen, Gulbahar, Garden/Soldier Bazaar, Garden, Sadder, and Fatima Jinnah colony between the 9th and10th Muharram.

Peshawar: Processions will occur in the following locations: Main Saddar Road, Khyber Bazaar, Qisa Khwani Bazaar, Chowk Yadgar, and Kohati.

Muharram processions are solemn religious events and are not tourist attractions. The processions, and related events, are often unpredictable. Previous processions have become violent, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. Protests, resulting in further restrictions on movement to include the closure of major highways, motorways, and main roads within major cities, have also occurred.

The U.S. Mission to Pakistan urges U.S. citizens to avoid all procession routes and reminds citizens that U.S. government personnel may not visit mosques and other places of worship located outside the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad. U.S. government personnel will be under movement restrictions during the Muharram period of Ashura, October 10-12. U.S. citizens are reminded to keep a low profile and to avoid large gatherings, including processions, during this religious holiday.

Source: Overseas Security Advisory Council.