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Despite protests, Pakistan PM's visit to Ajmer shrine peaceful

Ajmer: Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf today offered prayers at the historic dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti during his private visit here that was marked by protests.

The brief trip of 62-year-old Ashraf to the 13th century shrine hit a sour note following a boycott by the Dargah’s spiritual head in protest against the recent brutal killing and beheading of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani Army.

Opposing the Pakistan premier's visit that was marked by tight security, local lawyers, some BJP activists and representatives of markets associations staged protests and shouted anti-Pakistan slogans.

After he offered 'chadar' and floral tributes, Ashraf prayed for peace in the world and prosperity in Pakistan.

"Me and my family members are fortunate to get the opportunity to visit the dargah. I thank you Garib nawaz. I wish for peace in the world and for peace and prosperity in Pakistan," the Prime Minister wrote in Urdu in the visitors book.

The Prime Minister at Ajmer. PM

The Prime Minister at Ajmer. PM

Ashraf, on a short visit to India, along with his wife Nusrat and over 20 others including his relatives offered prayers at the Dargah and stayed inside the historic shrine for about 30 minutes. He was assisted by the khadims in his prayers.

Clad in cream coloured sherwani and a white and round cap, Ashraf carried a 42-metre multicoloured velvet Chadar--a ceremonial cloth inscribed with religious verses--and flowers
on his head for offering it to the Sufi saint’s mausoleum where a 'ziyarat' was performed by his family khadim Syed Bilal Chisti.

Turban tying (Dastarbandi) was another ceremony that took place in the shrine.

Tight security arrangements were in place in view of threats by advocates to protest the visit and over 1,000 police personnel guarded the entire stretch from the helipad to the Dargah.

Police used mild force to disperse a group of advocates who had gathered at Favvara circle to show black flags to the Prime Minister in his way back to the Ghughra helipad. The VVIP cavalcade, however, passed through a different route and reached the helipad, police said.

The Pakistani delegation was received at the main gate of the Dargah, Nizam gate, by the bodies of Khadims (clerics).

As he stepped into the Dargah, Ashraf was welcomed by the beating of drums (Shadiyane) as per the traditions and customs of the shrine.

The delegation then proceeded towards the Aastana (shrine) after passing through Shahjahani gate, Buland darwaja, Sandali gate and Ahta-e-Noor (boundary of the main shrine).

Before getting into the shrine from Begami Dalan (main entrance of the shrine), he was introduced to shrine keys’ holders (baridar).

The Premier then performed ‘Fateha´ (supplication) and went around the premises through mosques, graves of the Khwaja’s disciples and two big cauldrons used for cooking food during the annual Urs.

Ashraf and his delegation landed at Ghughra helipad on the outskirts of the city by helicopters from Jaipur where External Affairs Salman Khurshid hosted a lunch for the guests.

Police and District administration officials received the dignitary before they moved to the Dargah sharif by road from the helipad--a distance of 13 km.

Dargah committee CEO Mohammd Afzal received them inside the shrine after his entry from the Nizam gate. He was also honoured by the Dargah committee at Buland darwaja before his departure to the helipad.

The Dargah premises was evacuated after noon for the visit and only pass holders were allowed to stay inside the dargah during the visit of Ashraf and his family members.

Ajmer Sharif Dargah Diwan, Zainul Abedin Ali Khan had said he would not welcome the visiting dignitary.

"Welcoming Pakistan’s PM would be the insult of the martyrdom of our soldiers because Pakistan neither took action against guilty despite protest of our government nor return the head of our soldier so I boycotted his visit," the Dargah's spiritual head said yesterday.

As per tradition, the Ajmer Sharif Dargah Diwan receives VVIPS when they arrive at the Dargah.

Khan's boycott was largely symbolic because he is seen as a ceremonial head. The Khadims, who control the 12th century shrine of Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, escort visiting dignitaries and assist pilgrims at the dargah.

General Ayub Khan, Gen Zia-ul-Haq, Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto, Pervez Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari were among the previous Pakistani leaders to offer obeisance at the revered shrine in the past.

PTI