LAHORE – The 968th annual Urs of Hazrat Ali Hajveri (RA), popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, will start here today (Friday) with traditional zeal and fervor but amid elaborate security arrangements. Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif will inaugurate the three-day ceremonies by laying a floral wreath at the shrine of the saint. He will also inaugurate the main milk sabeel in the morning.

Keeping an old tradition, the milkmen in and around the City will bring thousands of litters of milk for distribution among the saint’s devotees. They keep distributing milk for the whole duration of the Urs.

Millions of devotees from across the country and abroad will participate in the Urs and offer special prayers at the shrine. Seminars on spiritualism, Qirat and Naat competitions, debate contests and lectures will be held to mark the event. Over 500 ulema, mashaikhs, religious scholars and custodians of popular shrines from all over the country and abroad will gather at the Urs ceremonies to conduct various spiritual sittings where thousands of devotees will be attending to gain spiritual satisfaction. A large number of devotees have already gathered in the City. Some of them, dancing, drum-beating and donation-collecting, have travelled all the way from different Punjab cities to reach here.

Besides, a large number of philanthropists provide them food as part of worship. The district administration has taken all necessary measures to maintain peace and security during the Urs. A special committee headed by Auqaf Minister Ehsanuddin Qureshi, and comprising Auqaf Secretary Tariq Mehmood Pasha, Director Auqaf Tahir Raza Bukhari and chairman religious committee Senator Ishaq Dar is supervising all the preparations and management of different functions and ceremonies during the Urs.

During the Urs ceremonies, various seminars of preachers, spiritual gatherings, Qirat and Naat competitions debate contests, seminars on Tasawwuf and spiritualism, lectures of religious scholars etc will be held. These gatherings will be presided over by noted personalities like Syed Muhammad Bilal Chishti of Ajmer Sharif, India, Diwan Syed Tahir Nizami, from Mehroli Sharif, India, Khwaja Fakhruddin Fakhri, Syed Ahmad Ashraf Shah, Ghulam Qutubuddin, Nazeer Ali Shah, Baqar Ali Shah while prominent among the participants were Khwana Abul Khair, Samsam Ali Shah, Abdul Shakoor Hazarvi, Sufi Ashraf Masoomi, Siddiq Hazarvi, Mufti Khan Mohammad Qadri, Ashraf Asif Jalali, Prof ZAfarul Haq, Abdul Tawwab Siddiqi, Fida Hussain Shah, Hafeezullah Mehrvi, Mehmood Ahmad Qadri and others. They will also offer special prayers for national security and prosperity and for the well being of Muslim ummah. The Urs ceremonies will also be participated by noted and amateur Naat Khwans, Qawwals and Qaris who will be participating in the Qirat and Naat competitions.

The Punjab Auqaf Department has allocated Rs 7.1 million for “langer” and other arrangements. Special security arrangements have been made and 80 cameras have been installed for monitoring. As many as 300 Police personnel will perform security duties and devotees will be checked through nine walk through gates and metal detectors at the entry points of shrine. Lady police constables will also be deputed in the premises reserved for women. Volunteers of various organizations will assist the department. As many as 65 security guards of the Auqaf Department with metal detectors have been deputed for security whereas 102 more guards will be deployed by the private agency. Police have also made special arrangements for checking pick pocketing and other crime. Camp offices by Wapda, Wasa, Civil Defense, First Aid and Sui Gas Departments will be set up for Urs days.