Power of Pakistan's exorcists

Reuters
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Jamila Ahmed is said to be possessed by an evil spirit.
Mental illness carries a heavy stigma in Pakistan and the government spends little on health.
Jamila's relatives are putting their hope of a cure in this shrine to a Sufi saint.
They're not alone.
Rahim Yar was brought here after he stopped speaking, and suffered memory loss and physical weakness.
He says he's seen the demons that torment him.
SOUNDBITE: Rahim Yar saying (Urdu):
"I have literally seen them from head to toe. When these things get inside my body I can hear their voices, just like I am talking to you. These creatures speak to me. I get terrified after that experience."
Some are chained to a wall at the shrine because their families fear they may turn violent.
They're hoping proximity to the spirit of the saint will cure them.
Syed Aliuddin is a spiritual healer.
He says he can fight 18, 000 types of evil spirits made from fire.
Aliuddin, whose charges start at 55 cents a session, says the spirits are driven by jealousy, love or sexual desire.
SOUNDBITE: Syed Aliuddin, spiritual healer, saying (Urdu):
"They love women. They torture their husbands when they come to the women. They sit inside the abdomen and have sex with them."
While self-confessed exorcists thrive on these beliefs, psychiatrist Najmi Chughtai offers another explanation.
SOUNDBITE: Dr Najmi Chughtai, psychiatrist, saying (Urdu):
"Actually these are psychiatric illnesses. They don't understand it because there are no positive laboratory tests and there are no physical symptoms like fever. This is more about a lack of education and awareness rather than access to medical facilities. It's a desperate search for hope and that's why they turn to exorcists."
Banking on a shrine to a Sufi saint for salvation is a risky belief for other reasons in Pakistan.
Militants including al Qaeda have bombed Sufi shrines which they consider heretical.
One attack this year in Pakistan claimed 41 lives.
Paul Chapman, Reuters

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