The superstitious side of Pakistan | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 11.11.2011
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The superstitious side of Pakistan

Occult practices are believed to be widespread in Pakistan where religious beliefs, superstitions and illiteracy play a big role in everyday life. A recent grave-digging incident in Karachi has highlighted this.

Black magic is believed to bring good luck

Black magic is believed to bring good luck

The two suspects, who had been caught and arrested at Karachi's Gulshan-e-Maymar cemetery, were later released from custody. They had denied involvement in digging up graves to steal human bones for use in black magic, which many believe is a booming business in the country, particularly in rural areas. The Pakistani police said that they carried out raids after receiving information about at least 40 unearthed graves in the coastal Gadap Town area.

According to local media reports, the incident caused "widespread outrage" in Pakistan. Dunya TV, a private TV channel, said the human bones were used by black magic practitioners, who "use them to cast spells and make amulets for their clients."

Use in medical experiments

Forms of 'sorcery' are practiced around the world

Forms of 'sorcery' are practiced around the world

Rafat Saeed, Deutsche Welle's correspondent in Karachi, says that the incident was reported extensively by the Pakistani media, however he believes that bones are not always stolen from graves for use in black magic. "At times, the bones are sold to hospitals and medical colleges, where they are used for studies and medical experiments. The local media tends to twist the story to make it more interesting," Saeed says.

Mukhtar Khaskheli, a local police officer who arrested the two suspects, disagrees with the idea that the bones are used by medical institutions. "The dug-up graves are at least ten to fifteen years old. It is not possible that these bones can be used in hospitals," Khaskheli told Deutsche Welle. On the contrary, Khaskheli agrees with the reports that the bones were used for black magic, which according to him was practiced by a number of "ignorant" people in the country.

Good omen

Bones are used in black magic in Pakistan

Bones are used in black magic in Pakistan

Many in Pakistan believe that black magic or sorcery can help reduce their problems, cure diseases, or even bring good luck. Such practices are common not only in the far-flung rural areas, where the majority of people are illiterate, but also in big cities like Karachi, which is considered to be the hub of the educated middle-class. These practices are usually combined with religious superstitions, and exploited by black magic practitioners.

The practice of digging up graves in Pakistan is illegal - no matter the reason. Khaskheli says the police "cannot raid the places where black magic is practiced. We need people to come to us and complain about the practitioners of such activities. Legally, we cannot do anything about it."

Faith and superstition

The recent grave-digging incidents, however, exposed the fact that black magic and all sorts of other superstitious activities are common in the Islamic republic where illiteracy, poverty and religion play an important role in people's lives.

Author: Shamil Shams
Editor: Sarah Berning

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