BHITSHAH: Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday strongly advocated the narrative that “mysticism is best weapon against terrorism and religious extremism” and called for propagating Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s message of coexistence, humanity, peace and brotherhood to contain the heat of intolerance, extremism and terrorism that had gripped the entire world.
He was speaking at a ceremony held in the H.T. Sorley Hall at Bhitshah to distribute the Latif Award during the concluding session of the three-day 274th urs of the Sufi saint.
The PPP chairman paid his first visit to Bhitshah since he embarked upon his political journey some three years back.
He specially mentioned his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had inaugurated the centre of excellence in Bhitshah in 1962 and then visited the Bhitai shrine again after becoming premier. He said that his mother, Benazir Bhutto, had great respect for Shah Bhitai.
“In line with the tradition, I am visiting Bhitshah today,” he said, adding that he felt honoured to distribute the Latif Award to Sindh’s distinguished intellectuals, writers and singers. He said that Bhitai was not only a mystic poet but a great thinker as well who used his poetry to promote the universal message of humanity and mysticism.
“Some short-sighted people have contaminated the essence of religion to exploit it for their own nefarious designs”, he said.
Referring to suicide attacks targeting the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and other shrines, he said today terrorists were not even sparing shrines.
“I feel there is need for spreading message of peace — live and let live — across the world,” he said. Defining mysticism and Shah Bhitai’s message of peace, humanity, religious harmony, universal peace and coexistence, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said it had universal dimension ... it described realities of universe ... it had fought for centuries against religious extremism and enemies of Islam ... and it would keep fighting. “Let’s convey this message to enemies of humanity, peace and love from this land of Bhitai,” he said.
“Isn’t it a point of pride that Bhitai discussed the downtrodden, labourers and peasants in his poetry?” he asked, and noted that women were the central characters of Bhitai’s epic work in which they were called soormyoon (heroic women), he said. “Nowhere in the world’s poetry such special place was given to women by anyone other than Bhitai,” he said.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said that when he looked at the struggle of Sassui [a character of a heroic woman in one of Bhitai’s works] it reminded him of his mother’s [Benazir’s] fight against dictator after her father’s [Z.A. Bhutto’s] martyrdom. He said that when he read the folklore of Umer-Marui, it reminded him of his great mother again. “It was this great mother who kept singing songs of her motherland and could never bear separation from her people. She eventually returned to them and you describe her as Shaheed Rani. You are people of Shah Latif’s land who gave her the title of Marui Malir Ji,” the young PPP chief told the audience.
He wondered whether people would agree with his view that had Bhitai been alive today and witnessed his mother’s struggle against tyranny and suppression, he would have described her his eighth soormayee.
Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah told the audience that in the wake of the Feb 16 Qalandar shrine blast, everyone wanted mysticism to be promoted to counter terrorist and extremist mindset. He pledged to get work on Sufi University expedited.
Culture Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah said enemies of humanity were wrong to believe that they could silence people. “We will respond to dhamaka’ [blast] with dhamal (mystic dance),” he said. He said he took pride when people take a jibe at him that he was a minister of melas [festivals]. “At least I am not a minister of mullahs [so-called clerics],” he said.
Bhitai shrine’s custodian Syed Waqar Hussain Shah said he wished Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari took reins of the country. “Your mother believed it is shrines that lead one to government,” he said.
Earlier, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari enjoyed the tune of ‘kohyari’ in ‘sur Sassui’ played by Abdul Shakoor, the last surviving player of ‘khamach’, a dying instrument. Faqirs of Sachal Sarmast resplendent in orange dresses presented Bhit ja Bhitai as a tribute to Shah Bhitai. Khalid Bhatti presented Seraiki rendition Deedar karo, may aya mukh wekhan. Thari folk singers Mai Dahi and Taj Mastani also gave their performances.
The Taiwanese scholar who converted to Islam and changed her original name Pei-ling Huang to Juhi Fatima, presented Bhitai’s melody of Noori Jam Tamachi along with Ghulam Sakina (daughter of Manthar Faqir), Saif Samejo and Nomi Ali.
The Latif Award recipients included Faqir Manthar Junejo and Allah Dino Junejo (Bhitai’s raagis), Abdul Shakoor (instrumentalist), Jami Chandio (researcher), Qasim Rahimoon (sughar), Yasir Qazi, (compere) Amar Fayyaz (software engineer), master Intikhab Burdi and baby Rahat Burdi (who memorised Shah’s kalam) and Nadir Ali Jamali (who produced Bhitai’s statue).
Stringent security arrangements were made for the visit of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to the shrine. Strong contingents of police were deployed on his route to the shrine, which was closed to devotees and other visitors during the course of the programme attended by the PPP chairman.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2017