Tuesday, July 17, 2001,
 Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

When Ajmer waited endlessly for General
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

Priests at the shrine of Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty in Ajmer, wait for the arrival of Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf who subsequently cancelled his visiton Monday.
Priests at the shrine of Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty in Ajmer, wait for the arrival of Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf who subsequently cancelled his visiton Monday. The shrine is one of Islam's most revered shrines in South Asia. — Reuters photo

Ajmer, July 16
Disappointment was writ large on the faces of the members of the three committees — Anjuman Syed Zadgan, Dewan of dargah and Nazim — when the news trickled in the evening that President Pervez Musharraf would not be able to travel to the dargah of the revered Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti for pilgrimage.

It was a perfect example of the saying, “ only those visit the shrine of the Garib Nawaz for pilgrimage, whom he calls personally”. Apparently, despite the personal wish of Begum Musharraf to visit the mazaar of the 13th century Sufi saint, it was not in the destiny of President Musharraf to make the pilgrimage which is considered important by the people of this subcontinent.

The sense of expectation turned into relaxation for the people of this holy city who had been on their wits’ end since the morning because of the high-level visit. There was a flurry of activity around the city as the news filtered in that President Musharraf would finally not be making it to the dargah.

The traffic was back on the roads and all policemen deployed along the roads were withdrawn. People were back on the streets, some thanking that the event was finally over. However, there were some who were not happy as in the whole event they were forced to forego their one day’s earnings.

For the members of the dargah committees it was more disappointing as a lot of hype had been created over the visit to the shrine and they had almost been mobbed by the visiting media over the past two days seeking various details of the pilgrimage which the President and Begum Musharraf would have performed. They had waited almost endlessly since the morning to welcome the Pakistani dignitary.

They sought solace by saying that “it was not the wish of Khwaja Saheb for Musharraf to make the pilgrimage”.

As the summit schedule in Agra went beyond its schedule there was speculation here that President Musharraf may not be able to make the pilgrimage due to the shortage of time. But the confirmation came in only at about 4.45 pm, almost 15 minutes beyond the designated time when President and Begum Musharraf were to be at the dargah.

The authorities in Jaipur sent a word to the local administration that the visit had finally been called off due to pressing engagements in Agra.

However, preparations were underway in the city since the morning to receive the Pakistani President. The dargah was virtually evacuated with only those involved in the official welcome of the President being allowed near it. All the faqirs, who normally throng the dargah, were also moved to other areas.

It was almost a curfew-like situation in Ajmer from the afternoon with policemen being posted all along the roads leading to the dargah and the streets being barricaded to keep the public at bay.

With almost an hour to go before the designated time of the arrival of President Musharraf in the city, all vehicular and pedestrian traffic was brought to a standstill. The residents living in the colonies around the dargah were not even allowed to come out of their houses.

All shops, not only in the bazaar leading to the dargah were closed down but even the markets in the colonies along the roads leading to the main dargah road were also closed. The only shops that were allowed to remain open were the medical stores.

While there was skeleton traffic on the city roads since morning in anticipation of the visit, all offices were closed down after lunch and employees specifically asked to return home rather than move around on the roads. 


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