TIMERGARA, Jan 13: The descendants of Sufi saint Syed Akhund Ilyas Baba have demanded of the government and Auqaf Department to take steps for preservation of his shrine at Lajbok town here in Lower Dir district.

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, the elders of Akhundkhel tribe known as Miangaan of Lajbok, including Mian Mehtab and Khairul Haq, said that majority of Lajbok people belonged to Akhundkhel tribe and were followers of the Akhund Baba, who made this lush green mountainous area his abode throughout his life.

The royal family of Dir State (Nawabs of Dir) was also among the descendants of the Baba, the elders told this reporter during a visit to the shrine.

They said that late Nawab of Dir Aurangzeb, son of Nawab Mohammad Sharif Khan, built this shrine of wood in 1915 A.D. (1337 Hijri). The shrine has been in a shambles after people from far-off areas stopped visiting it some 20 years ago.

They said that people of Jandol, Dir Khas, Maidan, Adenzai, Swat, Bajaur and Malakand Agency used to visit the shrine on Thursdays till 1992.

They said that six families of Akhundkhel tribe had divided days to serve the visitors and collect charity amount. “People stopped visiting the shrine in early nineties when religious clerics issued decrees terming it as a ‘Bid’at’ or forbidden in Islam,” Mr Mehtab said.

He said that local elders would not object if the Auqaf Department took control of this shrine for its preservation.

The area people said that the Baba lived in Lajbok some 350 years ago. “Akhund Ilyas Baba was the son of Toar Baba who was popular for his piousness and Islamic knowledge,” they said.