Pakistan government today shut down the mobile phone network in the nation's biggest city Karachi and troubled Quetta city to thwart any terror attack on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Muharram.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik yesterday ordered the shutting down of cellular networks and services in Karachi and Quetta, the provincial capital of the troubled Baluchistan province.
People in the two cities were without cellular services since 10 AM today until they were restored by late evening.
Malik, in wake of Muharram and looming terrorism threats, had also announced a ban on riding motorcycles in Karachi and Quetta but the Sindh High Court overturned the order late last night.
The SHC today summoned the chief secretary, home secretary and advocate general of Sindh province and ratified the decision to strike down the orders from the central government.
The government has now suspended cellular services for the fourth time this year. It had also suspended mobile services on Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha and Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (PBUH).
Malik defended the decision to impose these bans citing credible information pertaining to terror threats. He told the media that the hard decisions were taken to prevent terror attacks at the start of Muharram.
Shia Muslims observe a period of mourning during the first ten days of the Islamic new year and take out processions to observe Ashura on the 10th of Muharram.
In 2010, around 45 people were killed during a bomb blast in a Ashura procession in Karachi.
Karachi and Quetta have in recent times been hit hard by sectarian violence and terrorist attacks. In Karachi alone at least 105 people have been killed this month in sectarian and other violence.
Malik said they were intelligence reports about the possibility of terrorist planning a attack today which is why extreme measures were taken.
He said while terrorists had been using mobile phones to plan and coordinate attacks, motorcycles had been used regularly in terror attacks throughout the country mainly in Karachi and Quetta.
Malik outlined the number of motorcycle bombings that had taken place in Karachi in 2011 and 2012 with the number being as high as 115 and 208 motorcycle bombings in Quetta.
He said intelligence agencies had creditable information that mobile telephones could be used to coordinate attacks or trigger a remote-controlled bomb.