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Followers greet Aga Khan in Chitral

December 10, 2017

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FOLLOWERS of Prince Karim Aga Khan gather at Booni to welcome their imam on Saturday.—Dawn
FOLLOWERS of Prince Karim Aga Khan gather at Booni to welcome their imam on Saturday.—Dawn

CHITRAL/GILGIT: The spiritual leader and 49th imam of Shia Ismaili Muslims, Prince Karim Aga Khan, arrived in Chitral on Saturday and visited the places of congregation at Garam Chashma and Booni. He is expected to arrive in Gilgit-Baltistan today (Sunday).

Thousands of his followers performed the deedar ritual in Garam Chashma and Booni, which included special sermons by the Aga Khan on the importance of education for the betterment of humanity. The 81-year-old spiritual leader advised his followers to ensure sectarian harmony — the basis of peace and amity as espoused in Islamic teachings — and said that collaboration and cooperation were cornerstones of peace and development.

The Aga Khan said he had a special relationship with Chitral and its people, and was aware of their issues and problems. He said he would consider various proposals to lend his help.

He last visited Chitral in 2003. His visit this year marks the golden jubilee celebrations of his imamat. To join the celebrations, hundreds of thousands of his followers gathered in Chitral, and many more have arrived in Gilgit and Hunza, where he is expected to deliver a sermon today (Sunday).

Dressed in a warm woollen jacket, Deedar Karim, 70, a resident of Hussainabad in the Gojal valley of upper Hunza, arrived in Aliabad, Hunza, using special transport arrangements for the Ismaili community living in upper Hunza to perform his religious rites at the deedargah.

He shares that he is eager to view the Hazir Imam, and despite the cold weather (approaching minus 10 degrees) had readily made the 60km journey to Aliabad.

The area has been decorated ahead of the Aga Khan’s arrival, and the shops, homes and vehicles have been playing traditional anthems for several days. The Ismaili community of Gilgit-Baltistan have completed preparations for their spiritual leader’s arrival in GB. The mountains surrounding Gilgit, Hunza and Ghizer have been lit up with the words, “Welcome Hazir Imam, Didaar Mubarak”, painted in white. Amid reports of fluctuating voltage in Aliabad, Hunza and Ghizer because of the spike in electricity usage, residents of Asqardas, Samair and Shayar in Nagar district have voluntarily gifted their share of electricity for three days to Aliabad during the Aga Khan’s visit.

The deedar rituals will take place at two places set up in Aliabad in Hunza, and Yasin in Ghizer. On Sunday morning, the Aga Khan is expected to meet his followers at a special congregation in Yasin, and later in Aliabad.

Salman, a young boy participating in a cleanness drive, said everyone from his community had taken part in preparing for the celebrations. “This is a special occasion in our lives when our Hazir Imam gives us the opportunity of deedar,” he said.

All main roads and public places in Hunza and Ghizar have been decorated with welcoming messages. Volunteers of the community have been working round-the-clock to make the necessary arrangements prior to the imam’s arrival.

The Aga Khan will deliver special sermons at both the venues. It is compulsory to have an invitation card in order to be able to attend the deedar. The residents of villages surrounding the venues have already volunteered to host followers arriving from distant places.

Special programmes have been organised in Danyor, Raheemabad of Gilgit and Karimabad, Sost and other areas of Hunza to celebrate the arrival of the spiritual leader.

The spiritual leader is on a 13-day visit to Pakistan on the invitation of the government of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2017