HYDERABAD, July 5 Given the grim experience of twin suicide bombings at the shrine of Hazrat Data Gunj Bukhsh in Lahore on July 1, security arrangements at the shrine of Qalandar Lal Shahbaz in Sehwan leave a lot to be desired.
Like Data Darbar, the Qalandar's shrine is frequented by thousands of devotees, especially on Thursday, and the number of visitors would increase on the night between forthcoming Friday and Saturday when the grave of the Sufi saint would be given bath on the 27th of Rajab as per annual ritual - the second important programme after his annual Urs which begin on the 18th of Shabaan.
On that day Chadars that are laid on the grave throughout the year are changed. New chaddars brought by devotees are laid on the grave while those worn out are distributed among them.
This activity continues from 1am to 4am and the occasion is marked by a large number of devotees who remain present at the shrine throughout the night.
According to Ahmed Jafri, a former administrator of the shrine, who has attended the event for over 20 years, the turnout of devotees in Sehwan on the occasion is close to 300,000 to 400,000.
In the wake of the attacks on Data Darbar, everyone concerned, from DPO of Jamshoro Farrukh Bashir to PPP MNA from the area Nawab Abdul Ghani Talpur, appears to be perturbed over inadequate security arrangements in Sehwan.
The MNA has sought the federal government's help through Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The DPO, a couple of month ago, has asked the Auqaf department to install close-circuit cameras and walkthrough gates.
“At least there should be a walkthrough gate to scan people because it has become very important following the twin bombings at Data Darbar,” Mr Talpur said.
“When I visited the shrine recently, I found only two policemen who were busy in regulating parking of traffic,” said the MNA. He has asked Rehman Malik to take over Dargah as far as security measures are concerned so that Rangers could be deployed there.
The MNA showed a lack of trust on police performance regarding security measures. He flayed efforts of police to combat crime and said that police have failed to even tackle day-to-day crimes like robbery and theft in Sehwan.
On the other hand the DPO defended police performance in crime combating on the basis of facts and figures. However, he agreed to Dawn's observation that security arrangements were inadequate at the shrine.
He said that police could assist the shrine administration in security because it was up to the Auqaf department to invest in security measures for installing close-circuit TV cameras and walkthrough gates. “These accessories are not provided by police anywhere and it can be got verified from Data Darbar,” he said.
He claimed that he had sent a detailed presentation to the Aquaf department a couple of months ago in this regard, but got no response. “We can approach the Special Branch to put up walkthrough gates on particular occasions but these gates can't detect explosives,” he said.
He said that he has already sent a communication to Special Branch officials seeking their help for the 27th of Rajab.
The DPO has a word of advice for public representatives of his area. “Why don't they write to Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza to get the security beefed up,” he said. He said that police could assist in terms of security through manual deployment and nothing beyond that.
SP Special Branch Mohammad Ali Baloch confirmed that he had received a letter from the DPO of Jamshoro but said his job would be only intelligence sharing and provisions of services handled by Bomb Disposal Squad.
“These services will be provided to the local police administration on the given day,” Mr Baloch said.