President Asif Ali Zardari announced on Sunday a generous donation of $1 million for the upkeep of the shrine of a revered Muslim Sufi saint in western India.
“President Asif Ali Zardari has donated $1 million for Dargah Sharif,” a custodian of the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti made the announcement on India’s Times Now television.
The shrine is located in Ajmer town, 350 kilometres southwest of New Delhi.
After his luncheon meeting with Premier Manmohan Singh, President Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto flew to Ajmer, put a floral wreath at the shrine, offered prayers and wrote his impressions in the visitors’ book.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by a spiritual joy after visiting the shrine – a joy that I don’t have words to describe,” Zardari wrote, according to the unnamed custodian. “I pray here to Allah Almighty for the whole humanity,” he further wrote.
Earlier the custodians squabbled over who would get the chance of accompanying President Zardari and his family to the shrine.
Tight security was ensured for the visiting Pakistani leader at the shrine.
All the stores catering to devotees situated along a one kilometre-long narrow lane leading to the shrine were shut between 1.30pm and 6pm. Devotees were barred from visiting the shrine from 2pm to 6pm. Vehicular movement around the shrine was halted during the half hour that Zardari spent at the shrine.
Over 3,000 policemen were deployed around the shrine, which is 12 kilometres away from the Ajmer helipad, according to a senior police official. Residents around the neighbourhood of the shrine were made to keep their windows shut while Zardari was in Ajmer.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.