The shrine of an 11th century Sufi saint was blown up on Saturday in Jalala, in the Takhtbhai tehsil of Mardan, by militants, making it the latest target in a series of attacks on Sufi shrines in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
The shrine of Ali Mardan Shah, also known as Madai Baba, which was constructed in the 1980s, was destroyed by the bomb. According to police sources, the bomb, weighing around 35 kilogrammes, was planted inside the tomb. However, no casualties were reported.
The bomb disposal squad also defused three other bombs, dragging them out of the shrine with ropes, before detonating them in an open area. The blasts were heard throughout the city of Mardan. Two domes of the shrine caved in. The tragic incident occurred at a time when officials have placed strict security measures for the holy month of Muharram.
Militants have targeted several Sufi shrines across the country over the last couple of years, with K-P and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) bearing the brunt.
Professor Qazi Hanifullah Khan, a research officer at the Pashto Academy, University of Peshawar, told to The Express Tribune, “Ali Mardan Shah is considered by historians to be the founder of Mardan, the major city of the Yousafzai tribe; however, it is unwritten history and a written record does not exist.”
Hanifullah said that Shah came to the region before the advent of Yousafzai tribes from different regions of Afghanistan, part of the ancient Gandhara civilisation, after which, Mardan was constructed in his name.
He added that Shah was not only a saint, but also a great scholar of his times.
Farhan Abbasi, a resident of Jalala village and a regular visitor to the shrine, told The Express Tribune that Madai Baba was respected greatly by the people of Mardan and hundreds of people visit his shrine every day.
He revealed that most people had no knowledge about Madai Baba, as very less has been written about him and people consider him only a saint.
Zahir Shah, another visitor of the shrine, said that the locals were shocked to hear about the incident, adding that thousands of people had gathered around the shrine after the blast.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2012.