Stampede Kills 40 at Muslim Shrine

  • Saturday, April 7, 2001

Forty people were killed and more than 100 injured in a stampede recently at a Muslim shrine in Pakistan when pilgrims pressed forward to enter the "Behisti Darwaza" or Paradise Gate at the start of a religious festival in the
town of PakPattan, in Punjab province.

The festival is an annual event at the shrine of a 13th century Sufi saint, Baba Fariduddin Gani Shakar, which attracts about 500,000 devotees every year.

Traditionally it begins with the opening of the Paradise Gate, which
leads to the saint's tomb.

Pilgrims believe that passing through the gate will secure them a place in paradise after death.

Usually the festival takes place in an atmosphere of spiritual calm, with pilgrims distributing offerings of sweetmeats and rice, and picking leaves from trees that grow near the saint's tomb.

The district magistrate said the stampede happened because the opening ceremony was delayed for three hours.

Thirty-five Muslim pilgrims died
in a stampede last month during the annual pilgrimage or haj to the holy city of Mecca.

They were crushed or suffocated when a crowd surged forward to hurl stones at pillars representing the devil.

(By Meriel Beattie, Independent News, UK: http://news.independent.co.uk/world)

To view this story on-line, go to: http://news.crosswalk.com/religion/item/0,,338062,00.htm

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