SARGODHA: In a rare incident of blindly following the instructions of a so-called faith healer, 20 people, among them three women, were brutally murdered in a village of Sargodha on Friday and Saturday.
The gruesome incident took place in Chak-95 North, some 17km from Sargodha. Abdul Waheed, the custodian of the Ali Mohammad Qalandar shrine, along with his two accomplices allegedly used clubs and a sharp-edged weapon to what he claimed cleanse his `mureedain’ or disciples of their sins.
Waheed served at a senior position in the Election Commission of Pakistan before taking retirement a few years ago.
Most of his victims aged between 30s and 40s. They included a business graduate, a police constable and the son of a former deputy superintendent of police.
According to witnesses and the police, the victims presented themselves for “cleansing of their sins”. Waheed, who sat on a platform, tortured them savagely to ‘purify them’.
“On the call of my faith healer I went to the shrine after Friday prayers. In the evening, Waheed began `cleansing’ his followers of their sins one by one by hitting them with a club. I was the first who underwent the process after taking off my clothes on his order. I fainted when Waheed severely hit me on my head. I regained consciousness on Saturday morning and found dead people around me. Finding no physical strength to move I kept lying there till the police reached there on Sunday and took me to hospital,” Mohammad Tauqeer, a carpenter by profession, told Dawn at the district headquarters hospital Sargodha.
Tauqeer is among the four injured who survived and one of them managed to leave the place to inform the police.
The police reached the crime scene on Sunday morning and arrested Waheed and his two accomplices — his driver and guard.
Another eyewitness Mohammad Aslam told Dawn that on Saturday evening he was present near the shrine.
“I heard people crying of pain. I rushed to the place but two men at the entrance stopped me, saying the `mureedain’ are crying on the order of their`peer’,’ he said.
Waheed in his confessional statement before the police said he had not committed any crime.
“I have cleansed my followers of their sins and sent them to heaven,” DSP Abbas Basin quoted Waheed as having said.
Mr Basin told Dawn that Waheed had resisted his arrest and had been insisting that his followers had begged him to `purify them and give them a new life’.
Regional Police Officer (Sargodha) Zulfiqar Hameed said that none of the victim families was willing to register a case against Waheed.
“The state will become complainant in the case. Forensic samples of the victims have been sent to a laboratory to examine whether they were drugged before being killed,” he said and suspected that a “succession row’ to the shrine could be a possible reason behind the gruesome killings.
“Initial investigation shows Waheed felt his position was threatened because of those whom he killed,” he said.
Abbas Shah, a brother of Naeem Shah who was said to be a potential candidate for the succession, came forward to lodge a case. “I am ready to become a complainant against my brother’s murderer. Waheed used to take drugs along with some of his accomplices on the premises of the shrine and this all happened under the nose of the police,” he said.
Abbas Shah said, “Waheed systematically killed his followers to eliminate those from whom he felt the threat. He even killed the son (Asif) of the real spiritual leader Muhammad Ali whom he had succeeded after his death.”
Waheed, a resident of a village near Nankana Sahib, regularly visited the Sargodha shrine and stayed there along with his followers.
Mohammad Ishaq was trying to figure out as to how his 32-year-old MBA son Ishfaq could fall prey to the tricks of Waheed.
“My son was working in a cellular company in Islamabad. On Saturday, Ishfaq came from Islamabad and told me that he was going to see Waheed at the shrine. On Sunday morning, I was informed by my brothers that Waheed has killed Ishfaq,” he said.
Sargodha Assistant Commissioner retired Capt Saeed Leghari told Dawn that Waheed had killed four people on Friday and dumped their bodies in the backyard. The remaining 16 people were killed on Saturday evening. “Nineteen victims had head and other injuries and a blunt weapon seems to have been used. One victim’s throat was slit which indicates that he might have run to save his life but was caught,” he said.
“During recording of the statements some grieving families refused to speak against Waheed, saying he did nothing wrong but tried to wash the sins of his followers... This is terrible as a society we have to address this ignorance through education,” Mr Leghari said.
The deceased included six members of a family from another village of Sargodha (Chak 90).
An FIR was registered under Sections 302, 353, 354 and 156 of the Pakistan Penal Code and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act against Waheed and his accomplices.
Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2017