Authorities expect security concerns to result in a low turnout for the urs of Hazrat Bibi Pak Daman, which kicks off today during Zohar and Asr prayers in Mohalla Bibi Pak Damanan, Empress Road.
“There will probably be a lower turnout than previous years because of the law and order situation,” said Auqaf Department official Muhammad Saeed, who manages the shrine.
Shrines of sufi saints have been targeted by suicide bombers over recent months. Since the attacks, the Bibi Pak Daman shrine has been protected by a large police contingent and closed between Isha and Fajr prayers. However, it will be open for the whole three days of the urs.
Up to 100 police constables will guard the shrine in three eight-hour shifts. The Civil Lines superintendent of police is in charge of security arrangements. Two walk-through gates and metal detectors have been provided to the guards and the eight-foot high walls of the shrine topped with barbed wire. Police checkpoints are already in place around the shire, while eight cameras have been installed to monitor the real time situation during the urs.
Saeed said a majority of the visitors to the shrine during the celebrations were women pilgrims.
The Hazrat Bibi Pak Daman shrine is said to be the final resting place of six women descended from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). There is no established, accepted record of when Hazrat Bibi Pak Daman came to Lahore so it is not known how many years the urs has been celebrated.
The shrine is visited by both Shias and Sunnis.
The urs proceedings are mostly a Sunni affair while Shias visit the shrine most commonly during Muharram and Safar. However, many Shias will also visit during the urs, said Saeed, the shrine’s manager.
The urs will begin between Zohar and Asar prayers with gusal.
Dr Asifa Mamdoot of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional will inaugurate the proceedings. The Auqaf Department has allocated Rs100,000 for langar for the urs.
Saeed said that no beggars or malangs would be allowed to enter the shrine during the urs.
The three days of celebrations will include Quran khwani, mehfil-i-naat and mehfil-i-samma. The final prayers will be offered after Isha on May 12 and led by Maulana Arif Siyalvi.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2011.