Shrine killings at Sargodha raise questions about beliefs, motives

Sargodha [Pakistan], Apr. 4 (ANI): Questions continued to be asked about the motive and beliefs of the followers of a faith healer identified as the main suspect in connection with the multiple murders at a shrine in Pakistan's Sargodha.

After 20 people, including three women, were brutally murdered, Abdul Waheed, a custodian of the shrine, confessed to murdering them, his act spread over Friday and Saturday.

Few villagers blamed Waheed calling him a 'fake' peer (spiritual leader). Others said that a middle-aged man like Waheed (55) could not kill 20 people that included young men who could have resisted - unless the unfortunate victims were under some psychological spell or had been drugged, the Dawn reports.

"I hold these mureeds - the devotees - responsible for their fate," Muhammad Ismail, of Chak-90 North, told Dawn.

"Because of their blind following of a fake peer, these men and women had allowed him to treat them worse than slaves. Khalid Jutt, one of the victims, was my friend. When I asked him to stop seeing this dubious man (Waheed), he got angry with me and stopped seeing me instead."

"Everyone in the surrounding villages knew what method Waheed used to wash the sins of his followers. He would undress them and then hit them with a stick," he said and recalled how Jutt did not like to discuss this strange process of healing.

Ikram Ahmed, of Chak-95 North, where the shrine is located, said, "Frankly speaking we are surprised by the reaction of the victims. There has been little mourning in the families of two victims in my area."

The two acre shrine is surrounded by lush green fields. This is one of the many shrines in the area. It was built only about two years ago by a local landlord.

Mohammad Kashif, who is among the four injured in the incident, said he had no idea that Waheed would hit him with a club.

"Earlier, Murshad Pak (spiritual guide) used to hit on my back to wash my sins, but this is for the first time he targetted the heads of his mureeds (followers)," Kashif said.

"Peer sahib jalal main a gaiy thay kissi baat par iss liya unhaun nay sab ko saroon main marna shuru kardia (In fact, the saint got furious and started hitting us in the head with a club)," Muhammad Tauqeer, another injured, said.

Both injured were being treated at the Sargodha District Headquarters Hospital.

Regional Police Officer Zulfiqar Hameed told Dawn that a joint investigation team was being constituted to probe the matter.

Waheed served on a senior position at the Election Commission of Pakistan before he resigned a few years ago to solely concentrate on his activities at the shrine. (ANI)