Conflict & Justice

Pakistan blocks cellphone service through Sunday to prevent Muharram attacks


Pakistani volunteers carry an injured blast victim into a hospital in Karachi on November 21, 2012. Militants hit Pakistani security forces on the eve of a major international summit, killing 10 people in regional flashpoints on Wednesday as delegates arrived in the capital Islamabad.



Hoping to prevent Sunni extremist groups from detonating bombs using cellphones during Saturday and Sunday, the most important days of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, the Pakistani government announced today that it would block cellphone service for the next two days, the Hindu reported.

The government blocked mobile services in Karachi, Quetta and a sector of Islamabad this afternoon, and officials said the ban would be extended to 49 cities on Saturday and Sunday, the Hindu reported.

“The suspension of cellphone services will begin at 6 a.m. Saturday and run through the next day,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Islamabad, according to the Indian Express.

According to Reuters:

Muharram marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala where the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad and his family members were killed.

On Saturday, about 50,000 people are expected to turn out for a procession through the streets of Islamabad commemorating Muharram, Reuters reported.

On Nov. 21, Pakistan’s Taliban killed 16 people in three bomb attacks in Rawalpindi, Quetta and Karachi which the group said were a precursor to more attacks on Shi’ites, Reuters reported.

More from GlobalPost: Bomb blasts in three Pakistani cities kill at least 17 ahead of summit meeting

This week, some Pakistani Shi’ites received anonymous death threat text messages on their cellphones, according to Reuters.