About ten days ago, videos which showed Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Maneka paying their respects at the shrine of Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar in Pakpattan went viral. This sparked debates on social media, with some defending Khan and insisting that religious inclinations not be mixed up with politics. Others criticised his actions, expressing their disbelief at his ignorance so close to elections.
This visit was not meant to be a publicised affair; only a handful of those affiliated with PTI were aware of it.
Khan and his wife spent about an hour here. They prayed, performed some traditional rites, which included placing a chaddar at the shrine, and distributed sweets among the local devotees present. Not an abominable sin, in any case.
Perhaps what made it more controversial was the political aspect. The ticket for PP-192 was previously awarded to Mahar Moeenuddin Chishti who recently joined PTI. However, this was switched over to a new candidate, Dewan Azmat Chishti. It was strongly speculated that this matter spoke of Bushra Maneka’s influence, as she had lived in Pakpattan for 30+ years prior to her marriage. But no further details were brought to light, so this remains speculatory still.
More importantly, today’s reports have revealed a message from the police: in a letter sent to him on June 28th, he was advised to not frequent the shrine too much.
Furthermore, if he was going to make a visit it was insisted he inform the police beforehand. The District Police Officer admitted that they have received threats directed at Imran Khan, which is why the warning was issued.
Simultaneously, Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST) has announced its support for PTI. This is a party which was formed to protect its Barelvi interests, which included defending their shrines and mosques from attack. Barelvi practices are very close to that of Sufism, which has come under attack in Pakistan several times. This very shrine of Sufi Baba Farid Ganjshakar was bombed in 2010. It was the third incident in a series of attacks on shrines that year.
Perhaps seeing the PTI chief paying his respects to a sect of worshippers similar to the Barelvis is the motivation behind this newfound alliance. However, one cannot make everyone happy. If Imran Khan keeps up his visits, some backlash is inevitable. The warning relayed by police is proof of this.
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