Shrine custodian drugged and tortured the victims before killing them. Rivalry over the shrine’s custody is the probable trigger. For activists, the problem is ignorance and lack of freedom, which lead to superstitions.
Sargodha (AsiaNews) – Twenty people were murdered yesterday at a Sufi shrine near the city of Sargodha, in Pakistan's Punjab province.
The dead were found near the shrine with clear signs of torture. Four of them were women, and 11 belonged to two families. Two men and two women survived but are in serious condition.
The main suspect is the shrine's custodian, Abdul Waheed, who acted with the help of two accomplices, Ali Zafar and Sanaullah. Waheed, a retired government official, and his accomplices have been arrested.
According to witnesses, Waheed drugged the victims before torturing them. Police said that rivalry over the custody of the shrine might be the cause of the murders. Prosecutors noted that the main suspect appeared to be in a state of paranoia and psychosis.
According Kakkazai Amir, a Muslim writer and social media analyst, ignorance and lack of religious education are behind the tragedy. "Every Thursday, that fake holy man danced naked with his followers," he said.
The custodian said he had "heard God’s voice" during his work for the Election Commission of Pakistan. In order to "make God happy," he decided to kill all of his followers.
Ignorance is such, according to Kakkazai, "that even the wounded devotees still believe he was right, and that the killings were a sign from God that all the martyrs would go to heaven.”
“To avoid such incidents, the government should monitor this type of religious psychopaths. A proper religious education must be imparted so that no one can blackmail Muslims in matters of religion.”
Human rights activist Naumana Suleman, of Bytes for All Pakistan, spoke to AsiaNews about the event. "When respect for believers of non-majority religions and legitimate freedom of expression are discouraged, blind faith grows, leading to incidents like this."
According to Naumana, people are afraid to express themselves differently from the prevailing opinion. This promotes superstition and keeps people from reporting injustice, as did the neighbours who did not report the growing violence at the shrine.
"It is the responsibility of the State to create a supportive environment, where those who differ are respected and freedom of expression is not discouraged. This would give people room to think and speak in a reasonable manner, without fear of violence. It would help the naïve not to be manipulated. An investigation must be carried out and the culprits brought to justice."
For human rights activist Basharat Masih, ignorance is the basis of such "darkness in society". The government should adopt restrictive policies to control these bodies to ensure the honesty of spiritual leaders and prevent such crimes”.
"These are places of rape, drugs and other crimes,” he added. “The government should meet out exemplary punishment. Local governments should have more power to monitor them, discuss on a monthly basis the monitoring and ensure community involvement. Usually these places are created by local organised crime and flourish because of lawlessness."
Faisalabad-based Human Rights Pakistan Focus (HRFP) strongly condemned these "inhuman" killings, calling for proper tools and policies to monitor these practices and spiritual leaders who entrap, brainwash and manipulate believers.
HRFP president Naveed Walter too is alarmed by the lack of controls over violence at various local shrines. Saddened by the loss of precious lives, he said that as the number of shrines increases so should the surveillance.
According to HRFP, the suspects should be severely punished, and the government should adopt an overall approach to monitoring activities in Pakistani shrines and see what is taught in them.