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Zardari prays for Benazir, Indo-Pak peace

When Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari stepped into time-warped Ajmer Sharif on Sunday, the scene was no different from what emperor Akbar had probably witnessed when he came wishing for a son. Zia Haq reports.
By Zia Haq | Hindustan Times, Ajmer
UPDATED ON APR 08, 2012 11:30 PM IST

When Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari stepped into time-warped Ajmer Sharif on Sunday, the scene was no different from what emperor Akbar had probably witnessed when he came wishing for a son.

A pair of centuries-old drums, called shaziyane nakkare, was sounded as part of a ceremony meant only for visiting heads of states, kings and queens.

By all accounts, it was a deeply spiritual affair. Zardari had last walked through the shrine's courtyards in 2005 with his wife, the late PM Benazir Bhutto.

"Is muqaddas makam par aakar mujhe jo ruhani khushi mili hain, wo na kabile bayan hai. Allah se dua hai ki woh tamaam insaaniyat ke liye aasaaniya paida kar de. (It is not possible to describe in words the spiritual ecstasy I have experienced here today. May Allah melt all our hardships away)," Zardari wrote in the visitor's log book.

"They asked for a mention in the prayers for Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto's departed soul, and peace between India and Pakistan," said dargah in-charge Syed Jaan Mohd Chisti.

In 2003, Benazir had prayed here for Zardari's release from prison, vowing to return as soon as the wish was granted. She was back in 2005, Zardari by her side.

"I am here for her (Benazir's) sake," the attendant Sufi priest quoted Zardari as saying.

A group of khadims, the shrine's hereditary caretakers, ushered the first family into this world of olden solemnities, guiding their way between dozens of haphazardly-lain smaller tombs, which one must not step on.

Among them, a lanky 53-year-old Sufi priest, Iqbal Kaptan, stood out as the Bhutto family's "resident representative" at the shrine. Kaptan had previously led prayers for Benazir.

It is customary for devotees to summon the services of a Sufi priest who is believed to have the ability to intervene and plead for fulfilment of wishes. Kaptan got that honour when the late Benazir picked him, according to dargah officials.

"When I showed Bilawal (Benazir's son) the lines his mother had penned in appreciation of my services, he was in tears," said Kaptan.

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