Those who can't understand why some people in Pakistan have become part of a cult that glorifies Imran Khan should study a little-known people (the Zikris). What started as a cult is now what its followers call an Islamic sect, but which is a totally different religion.

I first heard of the Zikris when I entered the salt trade in 1978. The coastal areas of Sindh and Baluchistan are home to many peoples, among them the Zikris (who also live in Iran and India). The estimated number of Zikris can't be more than two or three hundred thousand.

Around five hundred years ago, a man in the town of Jonpur (India) raped his own mother while heavily drunk. When he regained his senses and saw what he had done, he left for the holy land where he spent the next fifteen or sixteen years, praying and meditating all the time. He was persuaded to marry a girl from Jonpur who had arrived for the pilgrimage with some relatives from India. A couple of years later, his wife expressed a desire to go back to her home town to be with her ailing mother. When the two reached their home town he discovered that her mother was also his mother, and she was his own daughter. He then concluded that he was a prophet, apparently because prophets had to undergo much torture in the past. He retired to the mountains of Baluchistan and became famous as a holy man, His followers soon swelled. His grave is in Turbat (Baluchistan) where his followers gather every year on the twenty seventh of Ramzan to perform their own version of the Islamic pilgrimage known as Haj.

There are other differences in their beliefs, they don't fast in the holy month of Ramzan, but do so on the first nine days of Zilhij. They don't pray in the way Muslims do, they only recite what they call "Zikr". I once read that some Muslims in Chechnya also indulge in "Zikr". Maybe they're also Zikris.