Police officials have arrested a local pir, who claimed to cure people’s diseases with the help of his snakes. Police arrested the pir after an eleven-year-old girl was bitten by one of the snakes and needed to be administered a vaccine.
According to police officials, Mila Sadeeq village Chak 34-CB resident pir Safdar Haq treated dozens of patients daily by using his snakes. “He is known as the snake pir in the district and hundreds of people visit him to seek treatment,” said a devotee, Musa Lal, at Haq’s small shrine in Vehari. “He can cure people by letting the snakes twist around the injured parts of their body. He told us that the snakes were possessed by djinns, who worked on his behalf,” he added.
“We found out about the man from hospital officials,” Vehari police superintendent Bilal Saeed said. “A doctor at a local clinic treated the girl, who told them what had happened. Then we raided the site,” Saeed said. Police officials said that on Thursday morning, Chak 42GB resident Khatoon Bibi took her eleven-year-old daughter Safia to Haq’s shrine. “I had heard he could work wonders and my daughter has a breathing problem. We saw him treat dozens of patients by letting the snakes move over their bodies and they didn’t bite,” she said. Khatoon Bibi said that when Safia sat next to the pir she got frightened and began to scream that is why the snake bit her. “The pir is not at fault because he told her to stay still but she got frightened. He has cured hundreds of people,” Khatoon Bibi told reporters.
“People are superstitious and they believe that this pir can cure them even though he is really just a snake charmer extorting their money. The snakes have been trained,” said DHQ Dr Amjad Shahram. “I called the police because this man needs to be arrested. He is exploiting these people and turning a profit,” he added. “The girl’s mother wasn’t even willing to blame him. She kept saying it was the child’s own fault even though she could have died if she wasn’t administered the anti-venom on time,” he said.
Superintendent Saeed said that police officials had shut down Haq’s shrine located beneath a large tree. “We turned away dozens of people and we have taken him into custody,” he said.
“I am not a fraud. People don’t realise that the snakes have powers. The djinns are the ones who help heal these sick people. I am only their agent,” Haq said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2011.