KARACHI: Bacteria-ridden salt is being strongly suspected as the culprit in the toxic biryani that left three people dead and others sick nearly two weeks ago.
On Monday, the initial findings in the chemical examination report of the February 6 tragedy were released. While the word ‘coli’ was used, experts were quick to stress, however, that further investigations were underway to narrow the focus.
Although the authorities were certain that Lubna, 22, Farooq, 20, and 18-year-old Khalid ate something toxic, they were not sure how the biryani prepared by Mohammad Hassan’s wife Shabnum for ‘niyaz’ on 12th Rabiul Awwal turned lethal.
They sent off samples of the food to the laboratory two days after the incident took place and registered an FIR against unidentified suspects. They also detained Aslam, the shopkeeper who sold rice to the couple and were looking for the butcher who sold the chicken. Aslam was released after an initial investigation cleared him.
The chemical examination report, which was issued by Dr Fazl Elahi, suggests that a low-intensity poison was detected in the salt. According to the family, they bought salt from a street vendor. “We bought the salt from a man with a donkey cart,” said Shabnum’s relative Faqir Mohammad. “We don’t have a lot of money, so we could not buy good quality salt. We bought that salt because it was cheap.” They bought half a kilogramme for Rs5.
According to SHO Ghaffar Jumani, they were unsuccessful in arresting the man who sold the salt because no one saw him after the incident took place. He added that some of the people who fell sick after eating the biryani were already using the same salt at home. “The real problem is that we do not know where to find the suspect,” he said. “If the news hadn’t made it to the media maybe the family could have helped us track him down.” The police officer added that he could not comment on why the suspect was selling the salt or if he knew it was poisonous.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2012.