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KARACHI: Red carpets were unrolled and rose petals being sprinkled along the path to the Jamaat Khana in Saddar as the new spiritual leader of the Bohra community, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, made a stopover in Karachi on his way to Karbala from Mumbai on Thursday.

This was his first foreign visit after the death of Bohra community’s spiritual leader Syedna Burhanuddin last month.

Amid the strict security measures taken by the police, special branch personnel and Bohra scouts in brown uniforms, they were hoping to catch a glimpse of their new leader. Besides lining up along Sharea Faisal and on the road and footpaths in Saddar, people were also watching from flat widows, balconies and rooftops near the Tahiri mosque.

“People from across the country have come to Karachi to welcome him. We don’t want to come between them and the spiritual leader, but we have to provide them security, too,” said a scout.

Little boys and girls with their elders were seen dressed in the traditional attire. The boys wore kurta, pajama, saya and caps and the girls embroidered ridas. Some little girls wore glittering embroidered caps also. In a corner sat an elderly woman in a baby pink rida. She was praying silently. Asked if she would even be able to see her leader from her position and among a crowd of thousands, the woman, named Nafisa Adam Ali, smiled and said: “He will climb on the stage and turn 360 degrees to bless us all.”

She also held a passport size photo of her son, Shabbir, in her hands. “He is also in need of blessings as he has left home after a fight with his brother. We haven’t heard from him for over 10 days now.”

Suddenly the cries of “Maula … Maula” became louder. The security personnel, too, became more alert and everyone started crying as Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s vehicle approached. And as it pulled up and he came out, the crowds became hard to control and had to be pushed back by the security people.

As expected, he climbed up the stage and turned to bless everyone. “It doesn’t matter that he is here just for a few hours. What’s important is that we got a glimpse of him and he gave us his blessings,” said Abbas Najmuddin, another one of the Bohra community members gathered there.

Earlier, he was warmly welcomed at the airport by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Siddiqui, former federal minister Halim Siddiqi, Bohra community’s leader in Karachi, Nooruddin Bhai, and a large number of the community members.