Ajmer: Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf on Saturday offered prayers at the historic dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti during his private visit here that was marked by protests.
The brief trip of 62-year-old Ashraf to the 13th century shrine hit a sour note following a boycott by the dargah's spiritual head in protest against the recent brutal killing and beheading of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani army.
Opposing the Pakistan premier's visit that was marked by tight security, local lawyers, some BJP activists and representatives of markets associations staged protests and shouted anti-Pakistan slogans.
After he offered "chadar" and floral tributes, Ashraf prayed for peace in the world and prosperity in Pakistan.
"Me and my family members are fortunate to get the opportunity to visit the dargah. I thank you Garib Nawaz. I wish for peace in the world and for peace and prosperity in Pakistan," the Prime Minister wrote in Urdu in the visitors book.
Ashraf, on a short visit to India, along with his wife Nusrat and over 20 others including his relatives offered prayers at the dargah and stayed inside the historic shrine for about 30 minutes. He was assisted by the khadims in his prayers.
Clad in cream coloured sherwani and a white and round cap, Ashraf carried a 42-metre multicoloured velvet "chadar" — a ceremonial cloth inscribed with religious verses — and flowers on his head for offering it to the sufi saint's mausoleum where a "ziyarat" was performed by his family khadim Syed Bilal Chisti. Turban tying (dastarbandi) was another ceremony that took place in the shrine.
Tight security arrangements were in place in view of threats by advocates to protest the visit and over 1,000 police personnel guarded the entire stretch from the helipad to the dargah.
Police used mild force to disperse a group of advocates who had gathered at Favvara circle to show black flags to the Prime Minister in his way back to the Ghughra helipad. The VVIP cavalcade, however, passed through a different route and reached the helipad, police said
BJP hails dargah's spiritual head's stand
Welcoming the decision of Ajmer Sharif dargah diwan, Zainul Abedin Ali Khan to boycott Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf's visit to the sufi shrine, BJP on Saturday said it reflects thinking of Indian citizens.
"It is a good decision which reflects thinking of our citizens ... I do not know what is the thinking of central government (on this)," said senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu in Hyderabad.
The dargah spiritual head had said that he will boycott Ashraf's visit in protest of beheading of an Indian soldier by Pakistani army along the line of control (LoC) in Jammu and Kshmir.
JD(U) flays protest against Ashraf's visit
NDA ally JD(U) on Saturday disapproved of the protests against the visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to Ajmer shrine saying "politics and pilgrimmage should not be mixed".
"Anybody can visit the durbar of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. The boycott of the Pakistani premiere's visit by the Ajmer Sharif dargah diwan, Zainul Abedin Ali Khan is something contrary to the tradition of the Khawaja," party president Sharad Yadav told .
Yadav's remarks came even as BJP welcomed the move of Ajmer Sharif spiritual head to boycott the Pakistan Prime Minister's visit to the shrine in protest against the beheading of Indian soldier by Pakistani army recently.
Former external affairs minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had also said on Friday that the "courtesy" being extended to Pakistan Prime Minister during his visit should remain just that and not go beyond it, insisting "terrorism and talks" cannot go side by side.
The JD(U) chief said, "Should there be politics if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Prime Minister IK Gujaral visit Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, a Sikh spiritual centre in that country?"
"Pilgrimage should be allowed to remain a pilgrimage and politics should not be mixed with it. Everybody is permitted to visit the shrine of the Khwaja, which is a centre of reverence for all religions," Yadav said.
He at the same time maintained that he understands the anger of people over what had happened on the border recently.
Local lawyers and the Ajmer dargah market association joined the protest against his visit in view of the brutal killing and beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistani army some time back.