SARGODHA: A custodian of a shrine in Sargodha murdered at least 20 disciples including three women in a brazen assault on late Saturday night, ARY News reported.
According to details, the incident occurred inside the Sufi saint shrine of Muhammad Ali Gujar, where a custodian allegedly drugged his disciples and later killed them using club and knife.
The motive for the slaughter was unclear but some officials said the chief suspect had mental health problems and had used violence on followers before.
The victims belonged to different districts of Punjab. According to police, 11 of the deceased persons hail from Sargodha, two from Islamabad, two from Layyah and one each from Mianwali and Pir Mahal, while one body of a woman could not be identified as yet.
Three injured victims managed to flee from the scene and arrived at General Headquarters Hospital and they subsequently informed the police about the brazen attack.
Police have apprehended Abdul Waheed and his four close associates who are believed to be behind the mass murder.
Our sources informed that Waheed is an employee of Election Commission Sargodha, while police have also found his office identity card.
The suspects have been moved to an undisclosed location for interrogation.
Television footage showed scattered shoes, clothes, sheets and cots in the yard of the white-painted domed shrine as police vehicles and police commandos surrounded the premises, sited amid green farmland.
AFP adds: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has asked for a police report on the investigation within 24 hours, a senior government official said.
Visiting the shrines and offering alms to the poor — and cash to the custodians — remains very popular in Pakistan, where many believe this will help get their prayers answered.
There have been cases of people dying during exorcism ceremonies at some Sufi shrines across Pakistan, but mass killings are rare.
Hardliners such as the Taliban or the Islamic State group have carried out major attacks on Sufi shrines because they consider them heretical.