An Islamabad shrine custodian is accused of killing 20 Muslims and injuring four others during what is being described as a “cult ritual.” According to reports, 50-year-old Abdul Waheed lured the victims to the Ali Ahmad Gunnar Shrine where he convinced them to remove their clothing and consume an “intoxicating drink.” He then proceeded to beat and stab them to death.
As reported by The New York Times, authorities were alerted to the situation by one of Waheed’s devotees — who escaped and contacted the Pakistani police. When officials arrived on the scene, they found 16 men and four women dead. Four others, including the woman who escaped, were injured in the brutal attacks.
An unidentified doctor said the victims were all found nude and they appear to have been beaten and stabbed to death. Officials believe the devotees were tortured and killed in an unusual “cult ritual.”
Senior police officer Mohammad Bilal confirmed Islamabad shrine custodian Abdul Waheed was arrested and charged with murder. Four others, who were simply referred to as “accomplices,” were also arrested and are facing criminal charges.
Like many Sufi shrines throughout Pakistan, the Ali Ahmad Gunnar Shrine was built at the burial site of a self-proclaimed saint.
As reported by CNN, custodians, who are sometimes referred to as guardians, serve as caretakers and spiritual leaders for the shrines. In many cases, the custodians are appointed. However, some people have constructed shrines and appointed themselves custodians as a money-making scheme.
Authorities say “mentally unstable” custodian of local shrine in Pakistan worked with others to kill 20 devotees. https://t.co/oZvBDBP5hk
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 2, 2017
In exchange for donations, shrine custodians offer their blessings to their followers — who are often Muslims of the Barelvi sect. Some custodians, however, claim they have the power to do more than offer blessings.
A number of custodians, who generally run shrines in secluded rural areas, perform unusual rituals — which are meant to heal their devotees or absolve them of sin. Authorities believe Abdul Waheed routinely performed these types of rituals.
A former government worker, Abdul Waheed claims he is “the spiritual heir to” Ali Muhammad Gujjar — who is buried at the site of the Ali Ahmad Gunnar Shrine. Waheed, who authorities believe is mentally ill, claims to have the power to absolve his followers of sin and to cure physical illness.
According to reports, the Islamabad shrine custodian routinely beat his devotees with blunt objects after convincing them to remove their clothing. In his opinion, the rituals were meant to help his followers lead a better life.
Witnesses, who live near the shrine, said a number of Waheed’s followers were “drug addicts and people under the influence.” The witnesses said they often heard loud “screams coming from the shrine” — which were attributed to the beatings. However, the incidents were never reported to authorities.
It is unclear what prompted the Islamabad shrine custodian to kill his followers, but authorities said it may have involved the custody of the shrine. Officials confirmed one of the victims was positively identified as Asif Ali Gujjar, who was Ali Muhammad Gujjar’s son.
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) April 2, 2017
Authorities believe the attacks were premeditated because the followers were given intoxicating drinks before they were tortured and killed. It is unclear at this time how the accomplices were involved in the killings or whether they are also facing charges of murder.
Unfortunately, Islamabad shrines are often the site of violence from within and from Islamic terrorist groups — who believe the Sufi shrines are unholy. In February, 75 people were killed by a suicide bomber at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine. The Islamic State Khorasan, which is an affiliate of ISIS, claimed responsibility for the brutal attack.
Islamabad shrine custodian Abdul Waheed is currently incarcerated. However, he did not explain what prompted him to torture and kill his followers.
[Featured Image by Shahid Khan/Shutterstock]