A devotee supplicates after attending Eid Al-Fitr prayers at the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. Muslims in most parts of Asia, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, started celebrating the festival marking end of month-long fasting, Monday. — AFP
ISLAMABAD – Pakistan shut down mobile phone networks overnight in major cities to prevent Taliban and Al-Qaeda attacks as celebrations began for the biggest Muslim festival of the year.
The security measure kicked in on Sunday at 8:00 P.M. (1500 GMT), at a time when millions ordinarily telephone friends and relatives with greetings for Eid Al-Fitr. Networks were working again on Monday mid-morning.
Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan’s two largest cities, and the troubled city of Quetta, in the insurgency-torn province of Baluchistan, were among the places where networks were suspended. “We regret that it had to be suspended in some cities due to the risk of terrorist attacks,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik was quoted as saying by state TV.
Terrorists were plotting to target “a few areas of Punjab province”, of which Lahore is the capital, the minister said.
Authorities feared that mobile telephones could be used to coordinate attacks or trigger a remote-controlled bomb.
Pakistan, meanwhile, rejected Indian allegations that it was the main source of social media postings and text messages that threatened violence against migrant workers from northeast India in retaliation for the killing of Muslims there, causing them to flee from cities in the south.
Migrant workers have been leaving in droves since the rumors of targeted violence started spreading Wednesday.
“Such unsubstantiated statements are not very helpful in creating a conducive environment necessary for improving the relationship between the two countries,” a Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman said.
Interior Minister Malik Sunday telephoned his counterpart in India to discuss the issue. — Agencies