For Afzal Malah, a fisherman from Rehri Goth, it could be their last pilgrimage to the Bundal island to pay homage to the saint because they had heard that the government was planning to sell the island to wealthy people.
Malah was among hundreds of devotees who had arrived at the tomb of Sufi saint Hazrat Yousuf Shah at the Bundal island, which has been making headlines recently for the row between the federal and Sindh governments over developing new cities on islands off Karachi’s shore.
On November 6 every year, families of fishermen from coastal neighbourhoods not only of Karachi but also of the neighbouring districts of Thatta and Badin arrive at the island by boats to attend the three-day annual Urs of the Sufi saint.
Iqbal Dablo, a member of the shrine’s caretaker team, said a makeshift camp and bazaar had been set up for the Urs. “Today will be the last day of the festival and the number of the devotees will be increased and free food will be distributed among them,” he said.
Sami Memon, a local journalist, said the fishermen communities have known the island for a long time mainly because of the shrine of Hazrat Yousuf Shah.
“The barren island looks like a city during the Sufi saint’s Urs,” he said.
However, fishermen are showing their anger at the federal government’s recent announcement of developing new cities on the Bundal and Buddo Islands – also known as Bhandar and Dingi islands in the local lingo.
These islands have escaped the onslaught of real estate developers twice over the past two decades, firstly in 2006 and then in 2013. They are in the limelight again when the federal government unilaterally took control of the islands from the Sindh government through the Pakistan Islands Development Authority (Pida) Ordinance.
The Sindh government, Sindhi nationalist parties and fishermen bodies, particularly the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, have vowed to resist the Centre’s move, terming that it is against the constitution of the country.