Reopening of shrine bombed by Taliban spurs hope for lasting peace in tribal areas

By Syed Nasir Abbas

A view of the newly constructed Musa Nika Shrine in South Waziristan December 5. [Syed Nasir Abbas]

A view of the newly constructed Musa Nika Shrine in South Waziristan December 5. [Syed Nasir Abbas]

PESHAWAR -- The reopening of the Musa Nika Shrine in South Waziristan, which a Taliban bombing damaged in 2011, symbolises the power of peace over terrorism in the tribal areas, local residents say.

Inspector General of the Frontier Corps Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Maj. Gen. Muhammad Umer Bashir on November 10 inaugurated the renovated shrine alongside tribal elders, local administration and high-level officials.

Under the pressure of military operations such as Zarb-e-Azb, which security forces launched six years ago against militant groups operating in Pakistan's tribal areas, terrorism has declined significantly in the region, enabling the reconstruction of the shrine.

The ouster of the Taliban and the return of peace also mean devotees are no longer reluctant to visit the shrine, which had a large following before terrorists bombed it, said Adam Khan Wazir, a local journalist.

"The people have a deep respect and great love for Musa Nika, since he was the father of the Wazir tribe and a pious religious personality, and for his shrine," Wazir said.

"I laud the Frontier Constabulary for rebuilding the beautiful tomb," he said. "Reconstruction of the tomb was the long-standing demand of devotees and followers of Sufis and saints."

The shrine is situated 50km from Wana, the largest town in South Waziristan Agency, and about 500 metres from the Afghan border in hilly areas of Birmal Valley.

Before the Taliban took control of the area in 2000, local men and women would visit the shrine in large numbers to pay respect to the Sufi saint Musa Nika.

United against terrorism

Local residents welcome the reconstruction of the shrine and condemn terrorism, which has badly affected the tribal region, said Shahzada Wazir, a shopkeeper in Wana Bazaar.

"When the shrine was attacked ... the local people were furious and grieving," he said. "We staged protests."

"The whole of Wana Bazaar was shocked," he added. "Local residents condemned terrorists and hate terrorism."

The Taliban's act spurred an outcry from members of all faiths, said Shah Hussain, a Wana-based social activist.

"Musa Nika was our ancestor," he said. "His tomb was our symbol of identification. It was part of our culture and a Sufism attraction too. Even those who are not devotees of Musa Nika condemned the [bombing]."

The rebuilding of the Musa Nika Shrine has played an important role in reassuring locals after years of violence in the region, said Zafar Khan Wazir, a journalist from Wana.

"The explosion at the shrine made the Wazir tribe angry," he said. "Reconstruction of the tomb was a demand of the local people, which authorities finally addressed."

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