Are you experiencing strange dreams and sensations in parts of your home? Do objects move on their own accord; does the TV turn on by itself; are you hearing disembodied sounds?
Even more macabre: does the bed shake when it’s not supposed to; has your shrieking woken the entire house because, for a few seconds, a tall silhouette appeared and disappeared as quickly as it came?
If it’s YES to any one or more of these, you either need to re-evaluate the effectiveness of your shrink (that or get better pills) or you’ve got a paranormal infestation. Most households in this quiet city keep the faith in option number 2 (there’s always that chachi or khala).
The Islamabad underworld is a network of tales: residents from diverse backgrounds will attest that yes, Islamabad is riddled with the palpable energy of occult phenomenon: sightings of “pichal peris” in the E-7 wilderness; possessions and strange illnesses in F-6; the wandering spirits and jinns of the Diplomatic Enclave. No official scholarly body of text exists to support these- only the word-of-mouth retellings.
The federal capital is located on the Potohar Plateau, home to Buddhist and Neolithic sites, relics and artifacts. This lends more credibility to the sometimes-whispered rumour that residential sectors were built over ancient graveyards. Many Sector F-6/3 residents believe a specific version: that their residences sit on some old and potent hoodoo- an old Buddhist graveyard. We begin here.
Meet Adrian Rieck, 22, a former resident, who wasn’t aware that his old house was located at the corner of two streets that boasted the highest incidences of paranormal or jinn related incidents in such small quarters. Adrian is, and always has been, of a rational and scientific disposition. This is his story:
Adrian remembers the day when, idling on his computer, he heard the distinct sound of a woman crying in his little sister’s room. “It was loud enough for the whole house to hear and my sister wasn’t even home,” he said. The crying stopped as soon as he went into the room and switched the lights on. The next time it happened, Adrian’s mother heard it too. “After that weird things would keep happening in the house but I stopped paying attention because I don’t really believe in this stuff. I asked around the street and people said that an old Buddhist graveyard used to be here.”
Many households in the area have similar stories to tell. “This place is full of jinns,” said Jamshed, a guard in one of F-6/3’s residential streets.
Jasmine Arandia, 28, an F-11 resident, recounted her own experiences with a jinn in her apartment: She recalled in chilling detail how she woke up one night to see a tall, black pillar of smoke hovering by her bed. “It felt as if it was trying to take my soul out of my feet; it kept saying ‘I’m going to take you.’” Eventually, the family repelled whatever was haunting Jasmine with prayers.
There’s also a deep and abiding belief in disturbed spirits of the dead in sectors G-11 and E-11. Gul Mawaz Khan, 24, claims to have seen the ghost of a little girl appear and vanish before him at a friend’s (who lived alone) in G-11. “He always said the place was haunted by a mother-daughter duo. I just never believed it.”
Islamabad is a spooky place, especially at night; the forests, thickets and trees cast shadows everywhere; the streets are empty; dark mountains loom overhead. It’s no wonder that a sub-culture of superstition has emerged from this eerie natural milieu.
Unfortunately, people aren’t into talking about their experiences much- they think it might make things worse. I say it’s high time we explored the rich folkloric etymology of Islamabad’s underworld before it’s completely lost. So dear readers, I want your stories; whatever you’ve got.
I hope you all sleep well tonight.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2011.