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Seven years on, Urs of Potohar’s patron saint yet to be celebrated

May 31, 2015

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Devotees pray in the newly-constructed corridor at Bari Imam shrine. — Photos by Khurram Amin
Devotees pray in the newly-constructed corridor at Bari Imam shrine. — Photos by Khurram Amin

Although, the centuries-old Urs at Bari Imam shrine has not taken place since 2008, the number of devotees visiting the place has not dwindled.

Every day, hundreds of people visit the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Kazmi, commonly known as Bari Imam Sarkar, the most revered Sufi saint of the Potohar region.

“We come here for spiritual satisfaction,” said Tahir Zaman, who had come from Faisalabad.

Sitting on a prayer mat along with other devotees on the premises of the shrine, Mr Zaman said by banning the Urs celebration, the government had deprived the followers of the Sufi saint of the opportunity to observe their religious ritual.

Like him, another devotee Sain Moj Ali said if the government could provide security to participants of the sit-ins of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, why was it hesitant to provide security just for a few days to the devotees of Bari Imam Sarkar during the Urs celebrations.

Clad in a green Kurta with long flowing hair, the bare-footed Moj Ali said this year he was hopeful that the Urs celebration would be revived, but the government cancelled it.

“We are leaving this matter to Bari Imam Sarkar,” he said, and started participating in Dhamal with a group of devotees.

The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration had announced that the Urs celebration would be revived from May 28, but then changed its decision citing security concerns.

Kamran Qureshi, a government officer and also a devotee of Bari Imam, said thousands of followers of the Sufi saint had been waiting for the last seven years to celebrate Urs, which is not only a religious ritual but also a cultural activity.

“The Urs should be revived without any further delay,” he said.

Located on the outskirt of the federal capital in Nurpur Shahan, just a few kilometres away from the Parliament House, the Bari Imam shrine has its own history - a history of peace and love.


The only reason behind the postponement of the Urs has been security. However in the coming months, when the situation improves, we will definitely organise the Urs celebrations.


It used to host thousands of devotees every year on the eve of the Urs, which was not only held to pay homage to Bari Imam but also to promote peace and harmony.

According to locals, Nurpur Shahan village was once called Chorpur Shahan because it was infested with criminals.

However, when Bari Imam came here, he spread his message of peace and love and turned the area from Chorpur to Nurpur.

In May 2005, the shrine was hit by a terrorist attack that left 20 people dead and several injured. Following this incident, the Urs celebrations were discontinued.

People queue outside the Langar Khana to get free food. In the other picture, people light earthen lamps at the shrine.
People queue outside the Langar Khana to get free food. In the other picture, people light earthen lamps at the shrine.

In 2008, the Urs was held but the administration again suspended it in 2009 citing security reasons.

The first phase of renovation and construction work on the shrine complex has almost been completed. The government has expanded the shrine area by constructing beautiful external arcade, corridors and minaret.

However, the shrine has been cordoned off with a canopy as finishing touches are yet to be given and little work on the minaret is pending.

Currently, the devotees are not allowed to go inside but they can pray at a distance while standing in the corridors. This has upset the devotees who want to lay wreaths and chaddar at the shrine.

“I have come here from Fatehjang to lay Chaddar but the shrine is cordoned off,” said Sadat Hussain, who had to leave the Chaddar at the corridor.

People queue outside the Langar Khana to get free food. In the other picture, people light earthen lamps at the shrine.
People queue outside the Langar Khana to get free food. In the other picture, people light earthen lamps at the shrine.

At one side of the compound, dozens of devotees can be seen lighting oil lamps, while on another corner, people can be seen eating langer (free food).

Security of the complex is being manned by private guards, while policemen have been deputed outside the main entrance.

Two security gates - one each for men and women - have been fixed at the entrance.

According to published literature, Bari Imam was born in 1026 Hijra (1617 AD) in Jhelum and he died in 1705.

His father, Syed Mehmood Shah, shifted his family from Jhelum district to Baghan village, presently called Aabpara in Islamabad, where their shrines are situated and every day a large number of devotees visit their shrines.

Talking to Dawn, Deputy Commissioner Islamabad retired Captain Mushtaq Ahmed said the ICT administration wanted to revive the Urs this year, but due to security risks it had to postpone it.

“The only reason behind the postponement of the Urs has been security. However in the coming months, when the situation improves, we will definitely organise the Urs celebrations,” Mr Ahmed said.

The deputy commissioner added that the shrine had sensitive buildings in its vicinity like the Diplomatic Enclave, which was why the government was not taking any chances.

“With the blessing of Allah, security in the country has been improving, and we are optimistic that the situation would improve further in the coming days and months. We would then make the necessary arrangements to observe the Urs,” he said.

At present, it is difficult for the administration to handle thousands of devotees

that throng the shrine of the Sufi saint, he added.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2015

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