At least 11 people died in Bhakkar on Friday apparently from drinking tainted liquor. Seven others, including two people who are alleged to have provided the liquor, were taken to district headquarters hospital in critical condition, from where they were sent to Nishtar Hospital in Multan.
Police said one of the deceased, identified as Rizwan Mithan, too was a bootlegger.
Police have arrested Bashir Masih, a resident of Razabad Colony in Multan, and are describing him as head of the gang which they say has been operating in Multan and Bhakkar. Masih claimed to have support of Darya Khan Station House Officer Muhammad Rustam, Sub Inspector Nazeer Muhammad and Constable Allah Nawaz.
The three policemen have been suspended from their jobs. Multan Cantonment SHO Rana Sabir had also been suspended for negligence.
An FIR had been registered against Masih under Sections 302/34, 148/149 and 337-J at Darya Khan police station.
District Police Officer Abdul Qadir Qamar said that Masih and his men had sent 180 litres of liquor to Bhakkar from Multan on Wednesday, of which 30 litres was consumed, resulting in 11 deaths so far. He said more than 100 people had likely consumed the 30 litres. DPO Qamar said he feared that there would be more casualties.
He said the police had recovered 150 litres of liquor in raids using information gleaned from Masih. Masih told police that the liquor had been delivered to his regular customers. He denied that the liquor was tainted and said that the deaths had probably been caused from “drinking too much”.
The DPO said that police teams had been constituted to raid homes of the customers Masih said had purchased the 30 litres sold since Wednesday.
Dr Muhammad Azeem of DHQ hospital in Bhakkar said seven men at the hospital were all in critical condition. According to the doctors at Nishtar Hospital in Multan, the patients were not doing good. They said they (patients) had been unwilling or unable to say how much they had drunk.
Among the seven, Mehmood Mangu and Ahmed Kaalu, are said to be part of Masih’s gang.
Muhammad Iqbal, brother of one of the deceased, said his brother died on the way to Nishtar Hospital. He said there was no ventilator at the DHQ hospital. “Had there been a ventilator, my brother would have been saved.”
Iqbal’s brother and two others were among 10 people who were earlier taken to the hospital. The three later died on way to Nishtar Hospital.
The DPO said that Deputy Superintendent (Bhakkar Headquarters) Zahid Naqvi was heading the inquiry team which will present its report in a week.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2013.