The scene that lay in front of the police officials that found the 20 bodies brutally murdered by the caretaker of the Ali Muhammad Gujjar Shrine shrine in Sargodha was gruesome and belies understanding and belief.

The custodian, Abdul Waheed, and two accomplices have been arrested for intoxicating and murdering 20 devotees and injuring four others with batons and knives. The motive for the slaughter was unclear but some officials have said that the chief suspect had mental health problems and had used violence on followers before. Yet, it does not explain why he was aided in this massacre, and what the motives of his accomplices were. Additionally, reports suggest, that in this case, the shrine was built on private land and was not registered with the government. There is also speculation over the seat of the shrine being disputed.

Waheed used to meet devotees once or twice a month and used violence to “heal” them. His treatment of choice was to beat them. The fact is that people went to him voluntarily, and this could have just been one time that he took his warped notion of spiritual healing too far.

Pakistan is home to Sufism and spiritual Islam. The practice of Sufism is peaceful, and aims to build generosity, kindness and internal calm. Yet, it is open to abuse. Visiting shrines and offering alms to the poor and cash to the custodians is a popular practice believed to help get ones prayers answered. But often, the payment to the custodian can be of an extortive nature.

If we have to protect our local culture, as a means to bring our communities together, if we have to sustain shrines as places of prayer and meditation, such “faith healers” and their prescriptions must be rejected. These men and their misleading dogmas will lead to the destruction of what remains of a peaceful religious culture.

Those who visit shrines have a responsibility too, to think and question these custodians and soothsayers. People dying of physical harm in exorcisms, or getting sick when given concoctions that are medically unsound, is nothing new in Pakistan, but here we have the same practice going terribly wrong. This is the consequence of belonging to a society that does not question anything that comes out of the mouth of a religious figure. The absence of local facilities like hospitals and schools, and the constant presence of poverty and misery, has only made the problem worse.