Pirs, fakirs and other freaks

I'm mad at people who volunteer to be uabused by these charlatans and then go whining about their misfortune.

Saad Zuberi April 19, 2011
Blood curdling fury. That’s the best and perhaps only way to describe my feelings when I read news stories about pirs and their never-ending shenanigans. Fury, not at the pirs, because let’s face it, they’ve proved time and again that they’re quite good at their job of scamming, but at the people who happily volunteer to be used and abused by these charlatans and then go whining about their misfortune to the authorities, seeking commiseration and justice.

What a heartless snoot you must think I am, right?

Brutally chalking off victims of one of the most hideous and widespread forms of social crime as essentially unsympathisable. But tell me, who else is to blame when a pir shamelessly asks a grown man to leave his pubescent daughter at his place overnight so he can “cure” her, and he agrees?

Or when a family silently looks on as a young man’s nails are pulled out by a baba who doesn’t know cold blooded murder from exorcism?

The most recent case of Shehzadi Bibi, a mother of two who was raped by a pir after she let him into her home to drive away evil djinns, is a classic example of people’s messed up ideals and how immaturely they deal with them. And to be honest, I find it hard to empathise with anyone who is willing to lay their trust in men who not only look like they haven’t had a decent bath in years, but are, in contrast to inconspicuous men who are actually in touch with the Divine, quite revolting to look at!

We’re 11 years into the 21st century for crying out loud, and it’s about time people stopped blaming their idiotic decisions and acts of utter nincompoopery on lack of education. Common sense is a virtue even the worst-off have been blessed with.

Self-fulfilling prophecies

Why is it so hard for us to finally understand that just like any other profession, the world of piri fakiri is swarming with sexual predators and impostors who are simply out to make a quick buck? They grasp at ideas of cosmic consciousness, use lofty language and claim knowledge of esoteric secrets, prostituting their powerful clasp over the ‘unknown’ through dramatically staged displays of expertise, attracting a sizable clientele from the most beleaguered sect of the social order. The result is a lot of unqualified people with outlandish claims and grubby beards playing games, living in imaginary worlds and wasting poor people's time and money who blindly embrace any form of consolation, no matter how foolish, hoping to make some sense of their continuing ill-fortune and hardships.

It’s understandable in a way, for these people spend a lifetime bogged down by issues concerning marriage, relationships, kids, careers and finances, but this belief becomes a problem when they religiously begin surrendering themselves to the baseless prophecies made by their invalidated spiritual leaders and street side amil babas.

Prophecies made are also almost always self-fulfilling because people, in all their ignorance, start to see signs where there are none or even subconsciously do things to bring the prophecy to fruition. The imagination behind these prophecies doesn't have anything to do with reality, except that time and again some pattern is uncovered. The mistake people make is to take that as proof of what they want to believe in, instead of the fact that most imaginings, however absurd, illuminate truths and patterns in some respect at some point in time.

They sell because we buy

The only reason Pakistan is swarming with pirs, fakirs and babas is because they find good business here. Demands are in abundance: make your lover swoon at your feet or win over your impossible-to-please in-laws within 24 hours - all this at the expense of a poor unsuspecting black goat of course. And if you want quicker, stronger relief, gear up for the horrid task of burying an amulet inside a freshly dug grave and spending a few extra grand for “divine administrative purposes!”

I understand people are often helpless and resort to these freaks only once they have lost all hope in other forms of salvation, but shouldn’t we have learned a lesson already.

Why is it so difficult for us to perceive the perils of playing with these known-unknowns?
Saad Zuberi An Economics graduate with a post-grad in International Relations who’s currently pursuing Chartered Accountancy while working as a freelance writer for a number of local publications.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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