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The Zikris (Arabic: ذكرى) are a branch of Islam settled in Balochistan region of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. They believe that they're the followers of Muhammad al-Mahdi. The name Zikri comes from the Arabic word dhikr. The Zikri sect developed within Sunni Hanafi during the 18th century Mahdi movement as a reaction to British colonialism and decline of Muslim rule in modern Pakistan.
Zikri follow the Five Pillars of Islam and pray five times daily as other Muslims. The content of their prayer, which they call Zikr-e-Elahi, refers to the worship of God.[clarification needed] The Zikris perform the Hajj but they also make pilgrimage (ziyarat) to the mountain where Imam al-Mahdi stayed, called Koh-e-Murad "Mountain of Desire" in Balochi language. They celebrate ziyarat on the 27th night of Ramadan.
The cultural and commercial festivals of the Zikri are the same as those of the other Baloch. Their khanqahs resemble mosques. However, they have no pulpits; instead, there are stones and mats on which to observe the dhikr.
Towards the end of Ramadan, a huge assembly called the Zikir-e Elahi takes place on Koh-e Murad to commemorate the occasion.
Most Zikris live in Balochistan, Pakistan. There are also large groups of Zikris in the Pakistani city of Karachi and a few numbered in the Pakistani province of Sindh and in Sistan and Baluchestan Province of Iran. Many of the other smaller groups live in Karachi and Makran, although the Zikris are predominantly in south-western, where they are the largest sect in the Gwadar District. There are also large groups of Zikris near their spiritual center, Koh-e-Murad. However, they are becoming less visible, fear that they will also be designated a minority like the Ahmadiyya.
The number of Zikris is not known since they identify as Muslims. It is estimated that there are several thousands living in Pakistan. In addition, there are Zikri communities in Karachi, Lasbela District and Quetta. The majority of Zikris have migrated from their native villages and now are settled in Karachi for economic reasons.
Some Zikris feel that they have been discriminated in Balochistan region of Pakistan, Iran and in Afghanistan. Non-governmental organizations including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) are working with local activists to create a greater awareness of the Zikri predicament, and they aim to forestall backlash against this scattered and impoverished community. Recently, police protection has been provided to some Zikri pilgrims.