KARACHI: Nationalist leader Bashir Qureshi’s remains were sent to the Chemico-Bacteriological Laboratory instead of Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) for an autopsy despite the opposition of party members and family.
“We did not want to get the samples tested at a government facility because we don’t trust them,” said Waqar Leghari, a representative of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) and Qureshi’s family. He arrived with a team at about 2 am on Tuesday night from Larkana. “We were forced to give the samples here by the health secretary because he did not issue a letter to AKU.”
The health secretary, Hashim Raza Zaidi, said that according to the law they could not send the samples to a private hospital. “We have a bio-chemical lab and the case was referred there,” he said. “Relatives or party workers can approach the court if they have reservations over the performance of government labs.”
Chandka hospital in Larkana referred the case to AKU but it refused to accept the samples and asked for a letter signed by the health secretary. “This is a high-profile case,” Asif Baladi, the JSQM general secretary, quoted the hospital administration as saying. “We need a letter issued by the health department.”
The samples were brought in a police van with two police surgeons and three police officers. There were six jars, containing pieces of the stomach and small intestine, with its contents, lung, liver, spleen, and pieces of both kidneys. The samples were preserved in saline solution and the glass jars were sealed by plaster of Paris. However, Leghari said that one of the jars had broken during the eight-hour-long journey. He said it was resealed without any sterilisation.
Dr Qayyum Rajpar, one of the police surgeons, said that he was not concerned about what the family and party supporters wanted. “We just did our job by handing over the samples here.”
The senior MLO at the Jinnah hospital, Dr Kaleem Shaikh, said that the CB laboratory was the only government facility in Sindh to diagnose chemical poisoning.
JSQM announces strike
The party has called a province-wide strike today to protest testing at the government facility. Party workers allege that a sample jar was damaged on purpose. “We had already expressed our concern that our leader was poisoned,” said Baladi. “The administration had assured us that a post-mortem examination will conducted at a reputable facility but now they have referred the case to a government-run laboratory.”
Tension prevailed in Sindhi-dominated areas: Steel Town, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Safoora Goth and Sacchal Goth remained on the edge. Shops and businesses were partially closed and aerial firing took place. A dumper truck was also set on fire near the meteorological office. Violence was also reported in Larkana, Dadu, Sukkur, Shikarpur, Thatta and Hyderabad after the strike call on Tuesday night. Matric exams were also delayed in these areas.
Niaz Khalani, the vice chairman, has stepped up to be the acting chairperson of JSQM. Baladi said that the party leaders will meet on April 13 to take a few important decisions and constitute an election committee, which would elect the party chairman.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2012.