It was partly as an engine against the system of meanings and practices centred on shrines that the Ministry of Religious Endowments (awqaf) and religious affairs was created in Pakistan in 1959 under the regime of the modernizing and military dictator Ayub Khan, causing many shrines to subsequently be nationalized. At that time, the path to ‘progress’ was only thought possible once these alternative centres of power had been harnessed by the authorities and their powerful religious appeal channelled into allegiance to the State. As influential religious and political actors, living pirs 1 were delegitimized in modernizing discourses and, through this, their authority was meant to be curbed. As stated in an official document of the Punjab ministry, one of its core functions is to ‘make holy places centres of social, cultural and spiritual inspiration’, as if the pirs themselves were unable to achieve this task.