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LANDI KOTAL: Authorities on Saturday reopened Hamza Baba mausoleum in Landi Kotal after it remained sealed for almost five months due to security reasons.

Confirming reopening of the mausoleum, officials of the political administration here said that visitors were now allowed to visit the shrine and pay homage to late Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, commonly known as Baba-i-Pashto ghazal among literary circles.

“We were compelled to seal the Mazaar and restrict visitors’ entry after receiving direct threats about a suicide attack at the shrine prior to observance of the 23rd death anniversary at the same place on February 18,” an official said, adding that security was beefed up at the shrine and visitors politely advised then not to visit the mausoleum.

They said that literary organisations too were now allowed to arrange poetry sessions and other gatherings at the mausoleum while keeping a low profile.

The site was closed five months ago for security reasons

Haroon Shinwari, president of Hamza Baba Adabi Tolana, welcomed the reopening of the mausoleum and vowed to revive literary gatherings at the shrine soon. He said that it was unfortunate that militants had threatened to target the mausoleum as Hamza Baba had always preached love and peace through his poetry.

MINORITIES’ DISPUTE: Rival groups of local Christian community made conflicting statements about the allotment of residential plots in the recently-inaugurated colony for Christians living in Landi Kotal.

Landi Kotal Christian community chairman Arshad Masih, while welcoming establishment of the new colony, told a press conference here on Saturday that deserving families were ignored while plots were awarded prior to the groundbreaking ceremony of the project.

He claimed that not a single family of total 25 currently residing in a congested corner of Landi Kotal bazaar was accommodated in the new colony. He alleged that Christian families with dual computerised national identity cards were preferred to genuine domicile holders of Khyber Agency.

He said that he will contest the issue on an appropriate forum at the Fata Secretariat.

Reacting to Arshad Masih’s allegations, Wilson Wazir, All-Fata Minorities Social Welfare Organisation chairman, said that the allotment was done after extensive consultations with all the stakeholders. He said that every plot owner would be required to pool Rs350,000 from their personal resources for construction of their houses.

“The award of plots was made purely on merit,” he claimed and added that even a jirga of local tribal elders was engaged to ensure transparency in the process.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2017