A shaky video of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Maneka arriving at Pakpattan to pay their respects at Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar’s shrine went viral within hours of being made available on social media on Thursday.
The video shows Mr Khan, his wife and Zulfi Bukhari heading to Baba Farid’s grave on Wednesday night where the PTI chief bowed in front of the door which appeared to be a sajda.
The visit had reportedly been kept a secret as local party office-bearers had no idea about it. Muhammad Shah Khagga, the party’s candidate for NA-145, and Dewan Azmat Chishti, their candidate for PP-192, were aware of the visit.
Mr Khan and his wife walked to the shrine’s main entrance barefoot. Dressed in white with a black ribbon around her hand, the party chief’s wife waved to the devotees who were surprised to see the celebrity couple.
As women are not allowed entry into the mausoleum itself, Ms Maneka went to the women’s portion which is adjacent to the tomb. Mr Khan laid a wreath and chadar on the grave. After offering fateha, he went to the women’s section and the couple distributed sweets among the devotees.
Mr Chishti, the custodian of the shrine, presented Mr Khan with a shawl from the shrine as a token of respect.
On hearing about the party chief’s arrival, young supporters rushed to the shrine where the 13th century Sufi saint is buried. Many devotees took selfies with Mr Khan and his friend — who stayed at the shrine for about an hour before heading back to Lahore.
Nomination for PP-192
Earlier, the PTI had reportedly awarded the ticket for PP-192 to Mahar Moeenuddin Chishti, who recently joined the party with the support of the Pir of Golra Sharif, Rawalpindi. However, the party has now cancelled the ticket and given it to Dewan Azmat Chishti.
Sources close to the leadership claim that this was a decision influenced by his wife who spent more than 30 years of her life in Pakpattan before her marriage to the party chief.
Controversy soon followed Mr Khan, as many people on social media disapproved of his visit. Several asked if he was visiting the shrine because of his wife’s religious beliefs — something he has been grilled over before as well.
This disapproval was further ignited by Maryam Nawaz, who used her official Twitter account to retweet the video with an emoji (hand over mouth) — which was liked more than 1,000 times and shared as well.
Many Twitterati jumped to Mr Khan’s defence, including Journalist Amber Rahim Shamsi who said: “How ImranKhanchooses to practice his faith is nobody’s business but his own. All this outrage at how he paid respect at the Baba Farid shrine is part of the same continuum as fatwas over the Khatam-I-Nabuwwat issue and lynching.”
Actor and singer Fakhr-i-Alam tweeted: “I love it how our collective intellect keeps regressing. As a nation we need to up our game and pose serious questions to our leadership. Why do we all make issues out of non issues? We are in a serious situation economically & other things.”
Baji Please, a popular Twitter account, poked fun at the attention the PTI chief was receiving: “Guys, go easy on ImranKhan. There are things a husband has to do to please his wife. I have a husband and I know how to twist him around my little finger. Nice and caring husbands deserve sympathy, not scorn!”
Addressing the day’s controversy, in an interview with a talk show host Mr Khan claimed that he was just paying his respects to a man of God. “Baba Farid is someone who helped spread Islam here,” he said. He said he did not prostrate himself but merely kissed the doorsill.
In a tweet, PTI’s official account reshared Mr Khan’s statement and said: “Sufism speaks about removing the ‘main’ the ego in an individual, people see these things superficially and declare fatwas without knowing the religion.”
It is not unusual for politicians to visit shrines of Sufi saints. The Sharif family have visited Data Darbar in Lahore several times. A few days before her assassination in 2007, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto paid her respects to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar at his shrine.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2018