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Apr 03, 2012 at 02:51am IST

Ajmer shrine authorities silent on Asif Ali Zardari visit

Jaipur: Rajasthan government officials and authorities at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti remained tightlipped on Monday over preparations for the April 8 visit of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to the Ajmer shrine.

However, according to an official who declined to be named around 1,800 security personnel are to be deployed around the shrine and all shops will be shut that day.

On Monday, neither the government officials nor authorities at the shrine were ready to confirm the visit of Zardari.

Ajmer shrine authorities silent on Zardari visit

The shrine is likely to be turned into a fortress as part of the security arrangements.

"We do not have any official news of his visit," a senior official of the shrine told.

"Till now nothing has been informed to us. Once we get information we would start to put all safety and security measures in place," said GS Sandhu, Rajasthan's home secretary.

Sources close to the shrine authorities told IANS that some officials from the Pakistan High Commission were in touch with Dargah Khadim, Natik Chisti, regarding the best time for the president to offer prayers at the shrine.

Khadims (workers) of the Dargah claim to be descendants of the Sufi saint. If sources are to be believed and if the visit is finalized then Chisti would be assigned the responsibility of performing the ziyarat for the president.

An official of the state home department said that as always with a head of state visiting the shrine, the entry of common devotees will be banned when Zardari visits this world famous Sufi shrine.

The shrine is likely to be turned into a fortress as part of the security arrangements.

"Only khadims (priests) will be allowed inside the shrine during Zardari's visit. Over 1,800 security personnel will be deputed in and around the shrine during Zardari's visit," said the officer.

Besides, the shops situated in Dargah area will also be kept closed.

The hotels and guests houses situated in the nearby areas would be scanned for suspicious activities.

Two former Pakistan presidents, Pervez Musharraf and General Zia-ul-Haq, had also visited the shrine in the past.

Zardari will make a "private visit for prayers" at the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Gharib Nawaz in Ajmer Sharif, Pakistani presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said in Islamabad.

"The president has also accepted the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for lunch in New Delhi en route to Ajmer Sharif," he added.

The visit by Zardari will be the first presidential visit from Pakistan in the last seven years. Pervez Musharraf was the last Pakistani president to visit India in April 2005.

Zardari, the husband of the slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, will return to Islamabad the same day.

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