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With its ancient hypnotic rituals, Sufism is a mystical form of Islam that has been practised in Pakistan for centuries.

Men and women beating drums, waving their arms and swirling together as they practice the dhamaal are a common Thursday night spectacle at the Lal Qalandar shrine.

But such rituals make Sufis an increasingly obvious target of Sunni militants who consider them heretics.

After Thursday’s attack, many devotees said they felt fearful but also vowed to keep up their Sufi practices and hoped for better protection from the authorities.

“We are ready for another onslaught, but that doesn’t mean the government should not secure our shrine,” said the custodian of the religious site, Mehdi Raza Shah.

He said he had expected the attack and asked local authorities to improve security. He also expressed frustration with the level of preparedness and training of policemen deployed to protect the shrine.

“Security is not up to the mark and if some serious attack occurred these cops who have no anti-terrorism training would have failed, and that is exactly what happened yesterday evening.”

As night fell, devotees continued to arrive at the shrine even though police and paramilitary personnel had kept entry into the building blocked throughout the day.

“Dhamaal will take place today, as per routine,” the defiant custodian said.

(Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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