By Danielle Silvia
Pakistani men and women entered a Sufi shrine in the city of Sargodha in Pakistan’s Punjab province on April 1 to obey a “self-described mystic,” according to The New York Times.
This act resulted in the torture and murder of 20 individuals in a cult ritual, NBC reported.
Six of the victims were women while 14 were men, according to the same source.
“The killings were purportedly carried out by the shrine’s custodian and several accomplices,” said Jamshed Ahmad, senior police official, according to NBC.
The shrine’s custodian, Abdul Waheed, was arrested on the scene. Waheed admitted to luring possible candidates for the rituals into the shrine and killing two of the victims. Waheed was nearly 12 miles away from the site and eventually traveled back for the crime, according to The New York Times.
Waheed claimed to kill the victims out of self-defense, as he was supposedly afraid that those at the shrine were going to kill him first, BBC reported.
While the motive of these murders is still unclear, police reported that Waheed might have been concerned about having control of the shrine, The New York Times reported.
According to the same source, murder victim Asif Ali Guijar was the son of the deceased Ali Muhammad Guijar, who was known in the village as the “self-described mystic.”
The shrine was built in memoriam for Ali Muhammad Guijar, and during the ritual on April 1, Asif Ali Guijar allegedly cried out about the custody of the shrine, as he felt it was unjust that he had not inherited the shrine since he was Ali Muhammad Guijar’s son.
Violence ensued after Guijar made this claim, The New York Times reported.
Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam, and its followers strongly believe in powerful saints and blessed people who can directly connect them with God. Several million Muslims in Pakistan are reported to follow the tenets held by the Sufi religion, according to BBC.
The pilgrimage to the shrine involved an assembly of spiritual guidance for the participants to better themselves. These rituals involved stripping their clothes to metaphorically be removed of sins. Victims were given an intoxicating drink and later “beaten with batons and hacked with knives,” The New York Times reported.
During the attack, an injured woman escaped and was able to report the incident to the police and send help to the shrine, according to BBC.
The same source reported that Chief Minister of Punjab Province Shahbaz Sharif ordered an inquiry of the killings.
Salman Sufi, Sharif’s aide, said victims’ families will be given compensation, BBC reported.