KARACHI: “It was just bad luck.” Baba Ijaz Bengali casually dismissed the death of a man who was brought to him to have his demons exorcised.
The ‘cure’ that involved making the person inhale smoke from a pot as the baba recited verses and moved an amulet ended up taking Muhammad Ghani’s life after he inhaled too much smoke. The incident has landed Ijaz in the lockup with murder charges.
At the Garden police station where Ijaz is serving a seven-day police remand, Ijaz said that he was receiving training on how to perform the procedure.
“I made Ghani inhale smoke for three hours but with gaps in the middle,” he said. “He was heavily possessed by djinns and when I was curing him of them, I could hear the djinns shouting back at me, ‘meray chotay ko maar diya [you have killed one of my young ones'].”
The man worked as a disciple at the astana of a self-proclaimed pir, Naseeruddin Khaki Jan, in Garden. Jan, a burly man with a heavy beard, sat angrily at the duty officer’s room where he was called in for investigations. Covering his face with a handkerchief, he said he did not want to talk to anyone.
The police officers seated opposite him said that they were dealing with such a case for the first time. They had inserted murder charges in the FIR but were trying to find out what to insert for the fake spiritual healer scam.
“I hope that after this incident people will stop going to false aamils and pirs for treatments. This foolishness should be brought to an end,” said SIO Sami Jan.
The police officer smirked and said that it was ironic that the faith healer who claimed to treat people of all illnesses was the one taking Ghani to the hospital when his condition worsened. “This just shows how illiterate and gullible people in our society are, depending on these fake healers,” he said. “We are waiting for the post-mortem report and will be sending samples for chemical examination to find out how exactly Ghani died.”
Meanwhile, Ijaz claims that the astana was benefiting many people and providing shifa [cure]. “I came here three months ago,” he said. “I was very depressed as I could not get a job anywhere so I thought I’d come here and work.” Ijaz said that the pir would perform the main treatment and he would act as an assistant, helping in whatever way the pir asked him to.
On Monday morning, 25-year-old Ghani, who is said to be mentally challenged, was brought in chains by his father and his brother, and by afternoon, his condition deteriorated when he was made to inhale so much smoke.
Ghani’s brother, who filed the case, did not want to talk. The police felt that the family is also partly responsible for his death for their irresponsible behaviour in bringing him to a pir.
Ijaz, in a white cap and brown clothes, claimed that no remuneration demands were made and added that he had told the family to only give money for charity.
“His family was right beside him. If I was torturing him or beating him up, they would have stopped me. It was just bad luck,” he said once again, wrapping up the conversation to offer his Zuhr prayers.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2014.