The local authorities in Peshawar city, Pakistan, are hunting down a quack doctor, accusing him of convincing a pregnant woman to hammer a nail into her head to guarantee the birth of a son.
Local Peshawar news outlet Dawn first reported the bizarre case. According to Dawn, the unnamed woman had three daughters and was desperate to give birth to a son because she was afraid her husband would leave her if she had another female child.
She then approached an unlicensed religious healer, who advised her to hammer a nail into her head.
Male children are preferred among some populations in Asia, where dowries and the concept of having a male child to carry on the family name are especially valued.
“She is three months pregnant, and because of her husband’s fear, she went to the faith healer who gave her taweez (an amulet), things to recite, and the nail,” hospital staff who attended to the woman at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar told Dawn. “The victim then returned home and hammered the nail in her head.”
Family members heard the woman screaming in pain and tried to remove the nail but could not. They eventually took her to the hospital, Dawn reported.
Haider Suleman Khan, the resident neurosurgeon at Lady Reading Hospital, told the media outlet that when the woman arrived at the hospital, doctors successfully removed the nail in an operation.
“She said that a woman in her locality did the same and gave birth to a boy even though the ultrasound had shown her unborn child to be a girl,” Khan said.
Police investigations into the case are ongoing, with the authorities searching for the “healer” to bring him in for questioning. According to the BBC, the healer’s name is still not known; the woman left the hospital soon after receiving treatment and without speaking to members of law enforcement.
Police are examining CCTV footage to ascertain the woman’s identity.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Peshawar police chief Abbas Ahsan said that a special team to investigate the incident had been formed.
“Special team has been made to bring to justice the fake Pir (healer) who played with the life of an innocent woman & put a nail in her head, with a false promise of a male child,” Ahsan wrote.
The Peshawar police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
According to reporting from the Los Angeles Times, faith healers, or pirs, are fairly common in Pakistan, with people flocking to them for reasons that can range from health ailments to relationship and money problems. However, recommending that one hammers a nail into one’s head is not a regular remedy for these issues, with prayers and spiritual rituals being far more popular options offered by the healers.