Toba Tek Singh tragedy: Death toll from lethal liquor rises to 44

Locals protest against ‘negligence’ of hospital staff

Shamsul Islam December 28, 2016

FAISALABAD: The death toll from the Toba Tek Singh liquor poisoning incident has risen to 44, but there are conflicting figures. The district police officer says the incident claimed 34 people, while the special branch says 37 lost their lives.

There are another 26 affected people still undergoing treatment at the Allied Hospital and four of them are said to be critical.

DPO Toba Tek Singh Usman Akram Gondal told the media on Wednesday that three people, who allegedly supplied the poisonous liquor, were taken into custody “Those arrested include two brothers Muhammad Shahid and Muhammad Qasim who own a shop. Their employee Mushtaq is the third suspect in custody.’

According to the officer, the suspects supplied aftershave lotion to Sowan Masih, a rickshaw driver, who subsequently made liquor and supplied it to a Christmas party though his friend Iqbal Masih.

“Evidence is being collected and we are waiting for a report from the forensic laboratory. Further investigation is under way to determine the contents of the homemade liquor which caused the death of dozens”

According to Jan Meshi, 30 of the victims, who died over the last 72 hours, were buried at the Goshallah Christian Cemetery.  The affected families blamed the death of their loved ones on the lack of facilities at the emergency of the DHQ hospital.

Farais Masih said if the victims were given prompt treatment, the majority of lives could have been saved. He continued that the administration and authorities took no action against the indifferent attitude of the medical staff.

Toba Tek Singh DHQ Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Asif Hameed Saleemi, when contacted, told The Express Tribune that the victims were brought to the hospital after a considerable delay. He said the tainted liquor was the main reason for the high death toll.

“The kidneys and stomachs of the victims were in serious need of immediate treatment and hospitals lack the necessary facilities to tackle such a huge emergency,” Dr Asif added. “At present, there are 12 patents undergoing treatment and they might be shifted to the Allied Hospital. We have just eight emergency beds in the hospital and two doctors. Also, there is a shortage of ventilators,” he said.

Up in arms

Over 200 members of the Christian community, mostly relatives of the deceased from Mubarakabad, held a demonstration and demanded compensation for the loss of their loved ones. They wanted decisive action against the “negligence hospital authorities”.

Ameen Masih told the media that a police constable was involved in the sale of poisonous liquor and senior officials were concealing facts from the media as well as affected families.

The demonstrators demanded a judicial probe into the incidents and punishments for those involved in the crime.

Meanwhile, Shehbaz Sharif has assigned ordered the Punjab CM Inspection Team Chairman to submit a preliminary report within 72 hours and determine the facts that led to such a high death toll. He also asked the team to pinpoint those responsible for the incident.

Meanwhile, the CMIT Chairman visited Toba Tek Sing and recorded the statements of various government and police officials, including the DPO, MS. TTS, assistant commissioner and others.

Earlier this week, Dr Kokab Nadeem Warrach of the CMIT also visited the site of the incident and took samples of the victims for forensic analysis.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2016.

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