ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's interior minister said on Friday that the government will suspend cellphone services in most parts of the country over the next two days to prevent attacks against Shia Muslims during Muharram.
(Pakistan shut down mobile…)
Saturday and Sunday are the most important days of Muharram, the
first month of the Islamic calendar, which is especially important to
Pakistani Shiites on Sunday observe the Ashoura,
commemorating the 7th century death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet
Muhammad's grandson. The Sunni-Shia schism over the true heir to
Muhammad dates back to that era. Different parts of the Muslim world
mark Ashoura on different days neighboring Afghanistan, for example,
observes it on Saturday.
Sunni extremists often target Shias
during Muharram, especially on Ashoura, frequently using cellphones.
Several bombings targeting Shias earlier this week killed over a dozen
The suspension of cellphone service will begin at 6am on Saturday and run through the next day, interior minister Rehman Malik
told reporters in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. He said 90 per cent of
the bombs set off by militants in Pakistan have been detonated using
Some commentators have criticized the government for
the policy of suspending cell phone service, saying it was a huge
inconvenience to millions of Pakistanis and that militants could find
other ways to stage attacks.
"The people it truly affects is
every other Pakistani who may not have any alternative means of
communication," wrote Nadir Hassan in a column on Friday in Express
"These are the people caught in accidents who
need to call for help, those who just want to go about their everyday
business without being unduly hindered by the state," Hassan said.