Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The extremist onslaught on Sufi shrines in Pakistan continues. The latest shrine to be targeted is that of Fariduddin Masud Ganjshakar, the revered 13th century mystic referred to by devotees as Baba Farid, whose mausoleum is located in the Punjab town of Pakpattan.
The blast outside the shrine early on Monday morning — around the time for Fajr prayers — claimed at least four lives while several people were critically injured. Initial reports suggest a remote control device attached to a motorcycle parked near one of the mausoleum’s gates was used in the attack. It is too early to pin responsibility on any one group. But such attacks are not unexpected given that several militant organisations harbour an extreme dislike for Sufi symbols and any interpretation of Islam other than their own orthodox one.
In fact, Sufi shrines all over Pakistan have been attacked over the past five years. They have been targeted by a mix of sectarian and jihadi militants, whose interests have increasingly begun to dovetail. In 2005 a suicide bomber struck the Pir Rakhel Shah shrine in Balochistan’s Jhal Magsi area killing over 30 people, while the same year a suicide blast targeted the Bari Imam shrine in Islamabad. In 2009 militants attacked the mausoleum of Pushto mystic poet Rehman Baba while 2010 saw the devastating attack on Lahore’s Data Darbar in July as well as the one targeting the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi earlier this month.
But the militants’ wrath has not been limited to Sufi shrines as mosques, imambargahs, churches and Ahmadi places of worship have all come in the line of fire, along with government buildings and those belonging to the security forces.
Media reports quoted one of the caretakers of Baba Farid’s shrine as saying that security cameras installed at the mausoleum were not in working condition, while lax security protocols at the shrine have been highlighted by observers in the past. The law-enforcement agencies need to overhaul security procedures at shrines and other places of religious importance to protect the lives of citizens.
Acting upon credible intelligence in a timely manner is crucial key to preventing such attacks.
Picture: A policeman walks through the damaged shrine of Sufi Saint Fareed Shakar Ganj after it was rocked by an explosion in Pak Pattan, located in Punjab province October 25, 2010. A bomb exploded at the gate of the Sufi shrine in Pakistan's eastern city of Pak Pattan on Monday, killing four people, a city government official said. Photo: Reuters Photo/Faisal Mahmood.