Twenty worshipping devotees were tortured and then killed by a custodian of a local shrine and his accomplices in what officials are calling a cult ritual in an eastern Punjab province.
Police said Sunday the victims first were intoxicated.
Senior police officer Mohammad Bilal said the shrine custodian in a village near the city of Sargodha, approximately 200 miles north of Multan, was arrested Sunday morning along with four others for killing worshippers with batons and knives, according to The Associated Press. Bilal said another four people remain wounded in critical condition.
Rana Sanaullah, the law minister for the Punjab provincial government, said an initial investigation showed that Waheed had a collection of followers who would regularly visit the shrine and face torture in the name of religious cleansing, reports The New York Times.
Pervaiz Haider, a doctor in a Sargodha hospital, said most of the dead were hit on the back of the neck. He said the victims were murdered nude, and that the bodies bore multiple stab wounds and blunt weapons marks.
"There are bruises and wounds inflicted by a club and dagger on the bodies of victims," he told Reuters.
Liaquat Ali Chatta, government administrator of the area, said they arrested the custodian, Abdul Waheed, and his four alleged accomplices. Chatta said Waheed is a retired government employee and seemed "mentally unstable."
"As they kept arriving, they were torturing and murdering them," Chattha told Geo TV.
The shrine was built about two years ago on the grave of local religious leader Ali Mohamamd Gujjar. Shamsher Joya, a local police officer, said Waheed would come to the shrine twice a week from Lahore, and his followers would submit to "beating and torturing with a red hot iron rod."
Chatta said the custodian was known to be allegedly into the practice of "beating and torturing" devotees to "cleanse" them. He said Waheed had confessed to the murders.
Police said the victims were killed at a house adjacent to the shrine and their clothing was found burned.
During Waheed's interrogation, he told police he believed his victims were out to kill him, said Zulfiqar Hameed, Regional Police Officer for Sargodha. "Waheed told police that he killed the people because they had tried to kill him by poisoning him in the past, and again they were there to kill him," he said.
Fox News reported the custodian's confession and other relevant statements suggested the incident was the "outcome of jealousy and dispute over custodianship" of the shrine. "This man was afraid of losing prominence and that the position would go to somebody else," said Hameed, who is heading the probe of the incident. "The issue of custodianship ends to this level of incident."
Waheed alleged the plot was started by Asif Gujar, the only son of the religious leader buried in the shrine. The 35-year-old Gujjar is among the 20 victims.