Blast at Baba Farid's shrine

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On Monday, 25 October 2010, it is believed that two terrorist men riding a motorbike left a milk container near the gate of the Baba Farid shrine in Pakistan's eastern city of Pak Pattan. Baba Farid, a revered Sufi saint and a Sikh bhagat, is a 12th century saint highly respected by both Sikhs and Sufis.

There are 134 hymns of Sheikh Farid of Pak Pattan incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy text of the Sikhs. When a Sikh bows to the holy Granth, he pays respect to the beautiful poetry of Baba Farid. Farid ji is described as the "Matchless Scholar of Sikh Lore" and his Bani is lovingly recited in the early hours on every bhog (conclusion) of the complete recital of the holy granth.

The tragic incident

The horrendous scene soon after the bomb blast
photo: reuters/afp

The milk container exploded into a huge fireball, a witness said. “Four persons were killed (on the spot) and at least 12 were wounded. The rescue work is over, now we are investigating,” regional police chief Mohammad Kashif told reporters.

The blast at the shrine in Punjab province was the latest in a string of attacks targeting Sufi shrines in Pakistan.

The dead from Monday's blast included at least one woman, said Maher Aslam Hayat, a senior government official in Pakpattan. At least 13 others were wounded in the explosion, he said.

The bombing significantly damaged a row of shops outside the shrine, said Hayat. But the shrine itself, which is dedicated to a 12th century Sufi saint, was largely undamaged, he said.

Great sadness for the community

Messages of condolence and complete surprise have come from many quarters. In response to this tragedy, Madan Khanna wrote, "It has really pained me to know how someone could put bombs in Data’s Durbar, Lahore and also at Baba Farid Durbar at Pakpattan. Though I am a Hindu but all along our forefathers have always have a very high reverence for Sufi Saints. I can only pray that some sense prevail among such people who are bent upon destroying the very fabric of our Society which is unconditional love and humility irrespective of the faith we believe in."

Nasir Abbas was also deeply touched by this inhumane behaviour and wrote, "It is ironic that the shrine of a person who converted tens of thousands to Islam through his message of love and peace is attacked by so called Muslims who have successfully painted Islam as a religion of hate and made Islam a target of hatred worldwide.

These people have no religion and no love – not even for God and His creatures."

Graphic horrid scene

A devotee prays while another mourns inside the shrine just hours after the blast.
photo: reuters/afp

Local TV footage showed the twisted and charred body of the motorcycle on which the bomb was planted. It also showed large piles of broken wood and chunks of concrete from the shops damaged by the blast.

After the attack, religious scholar Mufti Muneebur Rehman, criticised the government for not doing enough to protect the population.

Our rulers are too busy serving foreign masters and have not prioritised protecting the people and sacred places from terrorists, said Rehman.

Earlier this month, two suspected suicide bombers attacked a Sufi shrine in Karachi, killing at least eight people and wounding 65 others.

A suicide attack in July killed 47 people at the nation's most revered Sufi shrine, Data Darbar in Lahore. That attack infuriated many Pakistanis, who saw it as an unjustified assault on peaceful civilians.

Much damage done to property as well

According to witnesses, the blast demolished the shrine’s boundary wall and damaged several shops and stalls outside it where the 12th century saint, Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, is buried. Police said the blast took place near the eastern gate of the shrine, which remained undamaged.

The shrine, he said, had been closed for security reasons. Dr Mohammad Ashraf, head of the hospital in Pakpattan where the injured are being looked after, said that two women were among the dead and three among the wounded. Seven people were later discharged after providing them first aid, adding that two critically wounded patients had been shifted to Lahore, AFP quoted Ashraf as saying.

Leader of the Sunni Ittehad Council Fazl Karim described the attack as an attempt to create sectarian unrest. “There will be a three-day mourning and on Friday protest rallies will be taken out across the country,” Karim said.

Shrines to be closed

The Punjab home department and police have recommended keeping all shrines in the province closed between sunset and sunrise to avert terrorist attacks because of its inability to make foolproof security arrangements. There are 320 shrines across the province.

The proposal was made during a meeting held a week ago to review security arrangements and installation of security equipments in all shrines in the wake of a string of attacks, an official said. After a suicide attack on the shrine of Hazarat Ali Hajveri, the home department received various reports of threats complied by security agencies and issued instructions to police and the Auqaf department to enhance security.

The Auqaf department has, however, opposed the proposal, saying that most people visit the shrine at night and if the government would enforce such a rule, it would result in resentment among the visitors, adding that it might create a law and order situation.

According to data, 320 shrines are supervised by the Auqaf department with an annual earning of Rs800 million. As much as 80 per cent of the amount is received via donations or contributions.

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