Zikris are one of the well-known religious groups present in Balochistan, Pakistan. They live in various parts of the province, including Gwadar, Pasni, Turbat, Ormada, Mashkay and Awaran. Outside the Pakistani province of Balochistan, they are found around the Indian Ocean region, in places such as Bahrain, Oman, Dubai and Iran’s Sistan-Balochestan region. The word Zikri is derived from the Arabic “Dhikr” and is the term commonly used to describe Sufi devotional activities.
One of the most important sites associated with the Zikris is Koh-e-Murad, which is one of the famous religious shrines situated in Turbat. This is a sacred place for Zikris, where they have been offering prayers for a long time. Zikris gather on the night of 27th Ramazan for ziarat of this spiritual centre. The word Koh-e-Murad is a combination of two separate words and it means the “mountain of desire.” This is where they go to seek fulfilment of their wishes and to seek absolution from wrongdoings.
The precise population of Zikris is not known, as they identify themselves as Muslims like other communities in Pakistan. It is estimated that there are several million living in Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere. At least 20,000 pilgrims visit the Koh-e-Murad shrine yearly.
Turbat is considered the hottest area of Balochistan and it is difficult to bear the weather during the summer season. Load-shedding and power failures are a common problem during the month of Ramazan at the shrine
At Koh-e-Murad, people come in the holy month of Ramazan, on Shab-e-Barat and other special days for worship, sacrificing cows and goats in the name of God and spend their night in devotional activities.
In addition, at night, they also perform Chogan, a particular religious festival or activity where the people make a circle with almost 200 or 300 members. In the middle of the Chogan, one person stands to chant melodiously, praising Allah, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the saints. All who are standing around him or her in a circle repeat loudly after them. The words which are uttered in Chogan come from the Persian, Balochi and Arabic languages.
However, this spiritual site has been the victim of neglect from the government. There is a lack of facilities: pilgrims find no clean drinking water, washrooms, parking, medical facilities and other necessities in the area surrounding the site.
That there must be at least 50 ambulances to transport patients in any time of emergency to a hospital has remained a common demand. “The government of Balochistan must provide hospitalisation services where people can get all medical resources easily in situations of emergency,” the Ziarat Committee has expressed.
Beside this, there is a general lack of cleanliness: people throw garbage or waste materials in the surroundings, creating sources of disease and discomfort. Water which is supplied to people comes from Ziarat’s dam – and it is not a reliable supply.
Electricity is another ongoing serious issue for the pilgrims. Turbat is considered the hottest area of Balochistan and it is difficult to bear the weather during the summer season. Load-shedding and power failures are a common problem during the month of Ramazan at the shrine.
Security arrangements are another problem: especially for people who travel from a long distance to reach here. Several times they have been attacked and a number of precious lives have been lost.
According to the management at the Ziarat site, there are no traffic rules and regulations. People park their vehicles as they please, and that creates trouble for visitors coming and going. There is no specific parking place. The management demands that there must be at least 20 parking areas to ease transportation.
The Zikri community looks to the government to make its life safer and easier.