Naheed Jahangir

PESHAWAR: After opening of Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims of India, the Bahai community members in Pakistan were also hoping for easy access to their religious centre in New Delhi, Mashriqul Azkar, but it did not happen.

Many people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are even unaware about the existence of Bahai community. Shamim, a follower of Bahai faith in Peshawar, told TNN that the community members don’t need to go to any large worship place and they can pray at any place.

According to government estimates, 33,000 members of Bahai community are living in Pakistan, while the number is seven million world over. In Peshawar, less than a dozen families of Bahai community are living.

Shamim said the worship place of Bahai community has been established in every continent and the South Asia centre is in New Delhi. She said the community members regularly go to New Delhi for worship, but their travel becomes difficult when relations become tense between the two countries. She said the community faith started in Iran in 1844 from Iran and the community members are living in Pakistan before its creation. People from the community live in major cities of KP.

The JDHR Coordinator Mehboob Jibran said some people link Bahai faith to Islam, but it is not the case. He said Bahai is a separate faith and they perform prayers in their unique way. He said there is a small community centre for Bahai followers in Peshawar where they gather for religious functions. They did not do preaching of their faith.

Muhammad Fahim, who covers minorities are reporting beat, said the community members stay away from politics and work for inter-faith harmony. He said the community members also stay away from media. He said the community members are mostly well educated and are on good positions that is why social problems of this community are lesser than other people.

Shamim said after closure of doors of Mashriqul Azkar for them in New Delhi, now the Bahai community has decided to establish Mashriqul Azkar for them in Pakistan and land for this purpose has also been purchased. She said the centre will be set up in Islamabad with donations of the community members. She said Mashriqul Azkar is not only a worship place, but an orphanage, widows’ centre, hospital and rest house as well. She said the worship place is built in a unique manner have seven entry doors.

A separate graveyard of the community is also registered with the Auqaf Department in Peshawar. Auqaf Department Deputy Administrator Arshid Kamal said the graveyard is situated at Sonehri Road which is about eight to 10 kanals. He said applications are being received for development of centres of minorities regularly, but no such application is ever received from Bahai community as they are well off and don’t need government help.

Worship of Bahai community is mandatory and they have three kinds of prayers and the flowers select one kind for them. Their calendar has 19 months in a year and each month has 19 days. They observe fasting from March 02-20. The largest religious festive is Eid-e-Rizwan which is of 12 days from April 20 to May 01. They totally observe seven Eids.