By Taylor Cain
A custodian killed 20 people and injured four others at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan on Saturday, April 1. Abdul Waheed, 50, a custodian for the shrine in Sargodha, Pakistan, in the Punjab Province, was arrested with four others for the murder, reports The Washington Post.
“Abdul Waheed used a club and knife to kill these people visiting the shrine. He has confessed that he killed the victims,” Deputy Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chatta told The Washington Post.
“I don’t know what happened to the custodian of the shrine,” one of the victims said, according to The Washington Post. “He started beating and killing the devotees. He and some others…beat us badly with clubs.”
Police were alerted of the incident, according to The New York Times, after one woman escaped with a head wound and ran to report the incident to authorities. Victims were found naked with signs of torture on their necks and backs, police said.
Worshippers were drugged by Waheed with an intoxicating drink before being lured individually into his room, say The Washington Post. Once worshippers entered the room, they were beaten and hacked by Waheed and at least two helpers.
Waheed told authorities that he killed the devotees in self-defense due to suspicions that they had plans to poison him. His belief follows the death of the self-described mystic, Ali Muhammad Gujjar, two years prior, according to The New Yok Times. Mr. Gujjar was the mystic the Sufi shrine followers believed in.Sufism is a mystic, conservative branch of Islam found in both Sunni and Shia groups, according to the BBC, which is followed by millions in Pakistan.
One of the victims killed, Asif Ali Gujjar, was Mr. Gujjar’s son. Police officials believe the murder of Asif Ali Gujjar may have been an attempt to take control over the shrine, according to The Guardian.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said custodians of shrines frequently have positive relationships with local politicians, according to The New York Times. These relationships lead to custodians receiving riches, an increase in influence, and protection in exchange for garnering support of the religious community through votes.
“There are reports that the accused had an issue with Asif over the custody of the shrine,” Mr. Chatta, the senior district official, told The New York Times. “Locals say that Asif claimed he is the rightful heir to the shrine, being the son of Ali Muhammad Gujjar.”
Saturday’s attack follows an attack days prior on a Shia mosque in Parachinar, Pakistan which killed 24 people, according to The Guardian, and the suicide bomber in February who killed 88 people at a Sufi shrine in Sindh, Pakistan.