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Cost of ignorance: Girl dies during ‘exorcism’

By: Owais Jafri

MULTAN: A teenager was tortured to death by a pir during ‘exorcism’ on Friday in a Cheecha Watni village.

The report of an autopsy performed on Salma, 13, stated that she had died from suffocation. It said the girl’s breathing was hampered by blocking her nostrils with cotton buds and holding her mouth shut.

The autopsy, carried out at Cheechwatni tehsil headquarters (THQ) hospital, confirmed that her skin was burnt with a hot iron rod. The report said there were bruises on the girl’s arms, face and chest.

Kassowal Station House Officer Rasheed Ahmed told The Express Tribune that body was sent for autopsy after a police team raided Chak 114/12-L and prevented the burial services for the girl. He said an annonymous caller had informed the police about the death.

The police later registered a murder case against the pir identified in a complaint signed by girl’s father Manzoor Hussain. The SHO said they had raided five places but could not arrest Shabbir, the suspect. He said it appeared he had left Cheecha Watni. He said Sahiwal district police officer had been informed about the incident so that the suspect could be tracked down.

Hussain said he had accepted the death as God’s will and not reported the matter to the police. He and his wife Khursheed Bibi had taken the girl to the pir ‘to evict djinns who had possessed her’.

He said a relative had referred her to the pir. “He told me that the pir was an expert in evicting djinns and did not charge anything for his services,” he said.

Hussain said he and Khursheed Bibi were called to the room, where exorcism was underway, at around 4am and told that the djinns had been evicted.

“The pir said we could take her away and warned us against uncovering her body, wrapped from head to toe in a piece of white cloth,” he added.
He said the pir immediately left the room afterwards. “He had fled by the time we found out that she was dead,” he said.

Hussain said the girl was tied to a charpoy and burned with a heated iron rod. He said the pir had poured red chilli powder on parts of the girl’s body before burning them with the rod. He said the parents were made to leave the room after midnight. “He told us to wait outside. He said it was not safe in the room,” he added.

Khursheed Bibi said the girl had frequently complained of body aches and at times could not speak properly. She said they were certain she had been possessed as several doctors had failed to cure her illness.

The Express Tribune