KARACHI: Amid tight security, the three day celebrations of the 1,287th urs of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi are under way at his shrine in Clifton where devotees from as far as Gilgit-Baltistan have arrived to pay respects to the saint.
Celebrated every year between Zilhaj 20 and 22, the urs of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, also known as Ghazi Baba, began this year on Tuesday. The celebrations were inaugurated by Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, who laid a wreath of flowers on the grave. The celebrations will officially conclude today (Thursday) when Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah is scheduled to pay visit at the shrine.
Though the urs is being celebrated with its usual festivities such as a qawwali and milad, this year the event is marked by heavy security at the shrine in Clifton. From the external entrance till the courtyard of the shrine, people must go through six checkpoints where police searchers thoroughly check them and seize any flammable materials. A pile of seized perfume bottles, candles and other items were seen on Wednesday. All they could take inside were flowers.
The Auqaf department’s manager of the shrine, Ahmed Unar, said that though the devotees were inconvenienced by the strict security measures, they were necessary, as an incident like that of 2010 cannot happen again. In 2010 suicide attacks at the mazar resulted in multiple casualties.
Unar added that besides the police, Rangers and private guards acquired by Auqaf department are also performing security duties. Devotees understand why such security measures are necessary, he said.
Aslam, a devotee who had arrived from Sargodha, shared that he was not comfortable with the strict checking but after entering the shrine he forgot it all as he was immersed in the peace and calmness of the place.
Boat Basin SHO Azam Rajput said more than 250 police personnel have been deployed to avoid any mishap or incident at the shrine, Moreover, police teams are also patrolling in the radius of one kilometre from the shrine, he added. The SHO added that the Rangers are also providing assistance to the police.
Besides security, the organisers have also taken great care to ensure cleanliness at the shrine. The courtyard and other areas look very clean where devotees have also set up sabeels of milk, juice and water.
A peculiar view at the shrine was that of devotees sitting near the tomb with their heads down. They spoke not a word, immersed in some sort of spiritual daze. An attendant at the shrine, Muhammad Ashraf, who has been serving there since 1979, explained that this is a usual scene. People often come here and sit quietly for some time until they start crying and asking forgiveness from God for their wrongs, he said.
“On my part, I sit here quietly and after some time my mind goes to another world. I start looking at my past mistakes and sins and I feel like as if I am revealing them to Ghazi Baba, after which I feel relieved,” Ashraf said, adding that the saint is the saviour of Karachi as cyclones and storms do not harm the city when people come and pray at the shrine.
Ashraf said that the saint belongs to the Ahle Bait (family of the Prophet PBUH) and is considered as one of the earliest Sufi saints to migrate to the Subcontinent from the Arabian Peninsula.
Ashraf claimed that a freshwater spring is present at the shrine despite its close proximity to the sea. There was a time when seawater used to touch the premises of the shrine, he said, adding that the freshwater spring is closed these days to due to construction and renovation of the shrine. However, its water is used for ablution purposes.