5 March 2009, BBC
Suspected Taleban militants in north-west Pakistan have blown up the shrine of a 17th Century Sufi poet of the Pashtun language, police say.
No casualties are reported but the poet Rahman Baba’s grave has been destroyed and the shrine building badly damaged.
Rahman Baba is considered the most widely read poet in Pashto speaking regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Taleban had warned they would blow up the shrine if women continued to visit it and pay their respects.
Literary experts say the poet’s popularity is due to his message of tolerance coupled with a powerful expression of love for God in a Sufi way.
The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that his lasting appeal reflects the historic popularity of Sufism in South Asia.
But our correspondent says that his views are anathema to the Taleban, who represent a more purist form of Islam and are opposed to Sufism, preventing people from visiting shrines of Sufi saints in areas they control.
When the Taleban seized power in neighbouring Afghanistan in 1996, they locked Sufi shrines.
In Mohmand tribal region, the local Taleban captured the shrine of a revered freedom movement hero, Haji Sahib of Turangzai, and turned it into their headquarters.
Taleban leaders have said in the past that they are opposed to women visiting these shrines because they believe it promotes obscenity.
Residents of Hazarkhwani area on the eastern outskirts of Peshawar – where the shrine of Rahman Baba is located – say that local Taleban groups had warned that if the women continued to visit the shrine, they would blow it up.
Taliban bomb shrine for letting in women
6 Mar 2009, AGENCIES
PESHAWAR: Suspected Islamist militants in Pakistan blew up on Thursday the mausoleum of a 17th century poet revered in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, apparently because women visited the shrine.
Rehman Baba, a renowned Pashto language poet, is revered throughout North West Frontier Province and in neighbouring Afghanistan. “Four remote-controlled bombs planted by militants in the mausoleum went off, causing serious damage to its structure,” police official Anwar Zeb said. “However, The grave was not damaged by the blasts,” he added.
The explosions punched four large holes in the building and created wide cracks. A nearby tin shed had collapsed and the outer wall of the compound had also collapsed, said an eyewitness.
There was no loss of life in the blast, but it sparked a wave of anger among hundreds of Baba’s followers, including women who visit his mausoleum daily.
“The government cannot be pressurised by such tactics,” senior minister in the provincial government Bashir Bilour told reporters. “I am at a loss to understand why terrorists targeted shrine of a great poet like Rehman Baba,” he said, adding that the government would reconstruct the mausoleum and restore its glory.
Peshawar is close to Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal zones, which have been wracked by violence since Taliban and al-Qaida militants fled US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.