A manhunt is under way in Pakistan for a faith healer who allegedly hammered a nail into a pregnant woman’s head.
The woman arrived at a hospital in Peshawar after trying to extract the 5cm (two-inch) nail with pliers.
Initially, she told doctors that she had carried out the act herself, but later admitted a faith healer who had claimed he could guarantee she gave birth to a baby boy was responsible.
Police began investigating after x-ray images of the injury appeared online. Dr Haider Khan, a staff member at the Lady Reading Hospital, said the woman was “fully conscious, but was in immense pain,” when she arrived seeking treatment.
Staff at the hospital told the local Dawn newspaper that the woman had approached the faith healer after hearing about the practice from a neighbour.
They added that the woman was mother to three daughters, and that her husband had threatened to leave her if she gave birth to another girl. “She is three months pregnant and because of her husband’s fear she went to the faith healer,” hospital staff told Dawn.
In some poorer South Asian countries, a son is often believed to offer better long-term financial security to parents than daughters do, and this gives rise to exploitative practices, often from so-called “faith healers”.
Faith healers are relatively common in some parts of Pakistan, particularly in north-western tribal areas. Their practices are grounded in Sufi lore, sometimes described as a form of Islamic mysticism. Their activities are banned in many schools of Islam.
In a tweet issued on Tuesday, Peshawar police chief Abbas Ahsan said that a special investigative team had been formed to “bring to justice the fake peer [faith healer] who played with the life of an innocent woman and put a nail in her head with [the] false promise of a male child”.
Police have spent several days interviewing hospital staff and trying to track down the woman, who left the hospital after staff had removed the nail from her head, in the hope that she can help them identify the man. “We will soon lay our hands on the sorcerer,” Mr Ahsan said.
Mr Ahsan also said that his officers will be examining why the staff failed to report the incident to police when the woman first presented at the hospital.