The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Roses replace rapier
- Pink is the theme, from head to heart

Ajmer, April 16: The general sees the guns, takes the roses. He has just driven into the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti here from the helipad, past the scrubland, past the war trophies in the two tanks from unforgotten wars. He is now full of piety but the soulfulness adds to the diplomacy of the situation.

Musharraf is emerging from the sanctum of the shrine after performing ziyarat ' paying obeisance ' at the tomb of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti and has accepted a basketful of white and pink roses.

'Let the fragrance of these flowers waft across Pakistan and Hindustan,' Haji Syed Ghulam Kibriya, his escort with the delicately nurtured white beard who is the president of the religious workers' body here, is telling him. Musharraf nods, half-listening.

In the past, the Anjuman, the body that Kibriya heads, used to gift a sword to visiting heads of state. They have abandoned the convention for this occasion. Roses are apt for the occasion and the purpose for which the general is here, says Kibriya.

There is a turban in shocking pink on the general's head. That head usually sports a commando beret. Otherwise he is in shimmering whites.

Flowing white sherwani over bright white salwar. White like in the symbolic dove. The pink turban is a reminder that he has just received the dastarbandi ritual at the shrine.

Few grandstand like General Pervez Musharraf. He is fulfilling a cherished dream ' the pilgrimage to this shrine ' and is also turning it into a confidence-building measure ahead of flying to Delhi for more severe encounters over cricket and Kashmir. In this India-Pakistan season, CBMs are in.

'Aman ka paigam lekar aaya hoon. I come here with the message of peace. I have prayed that all disputes between Pakistan and India are resolved. I have prayed for the peoples. I have prayed for the prosperity of the two countries,' Musharraf is saying. Around the same time in New Delhi, foreign secretary Shyam Saran is announcing proposals for fresh CBMs.

The general missed Ajmer the last time, in 2001. It was to be on the last leg of that tour after Agra. This time he has begun with the unfinished agenda. He is saying in so many ways that this visit to Ajmer Sharif is treasured by him and it should be treasured by all his watchers.

Before leaving the sanctum where he is guided by the fresh-faced Syed Mohammed Nashtique Chishti, the 29-year-old Khadim who claims to be a descendent of the Khwaja, Musharraf stops by at the visitor's book of the Anjuman.

Inside the shrine, Musharraf has gifted a chaddar, a velvet sheet in dark green embroidered with zardozi and embedded with rubies, to be placed on the tomb. Wife Sehba helps him unload the burden from his head.

With Musharraf are Aziz Ahmed, Pakistan's high commissioner, Sheikh Rashid, minister, and an unidentified woman who a guard said is a relative of the general.

Nashtique says the general is also curious about the deg, a cauldron gifted by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in which rice was boiled for 4,000 pilgrims. Musharraf's security guards advise him against taking a look. The general shrugs off the warning, climbs up the small flight of stairs and peeks into the deg. He tells Nashtique that he will gift Rs 10 lakh to the shrine.

It is time for the general to leave. Back to the helipad, past the war trophies in the two tanks from India-Pakistan wars, and a 30-minute sortie to Jaipur. From there to Delhi.

Musharraf on this mission has just finished his first episode in grandstanding.

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