KARACHI: At first the authorities suspected that it was the bacteria-ridden salt in the biryani cooked by Shabnum on 12th Rabbiul Awwal that killed Lubna, 22, Farooq, 20 and 18-year-old Khalid. However, after 17 tests they have deduced that there was no poison in the food.
Last month, Shabnum and her husband, Mohammad Hassan, had invited their friends and family over for a niyaz at their house in Mohammadi Goth, Sohrab Goth. No one had expected that the main course of the meal, chicken biryani, would turn lethal, kill three people and send many others to the hospital.
Initially when samples of the biryani were sent to the laboratory, the police thought that the case would be wrapped up within a day or two but the reports had no trace of poison. When they received a report on February 20, it was to discover that bacteria-ridden salt might have been the suspect they were looking for. The police had arrested the shopkeepers the couple bought rice and meat from but released them after an initial investigation.
While talking to The Express Tribune, the medio-legal officer at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Dr Mohammad Saleem, said that it was a very challenging situation for the police as the postmortem report and water sample were also clear.
However, investigating officer and ASI Haji Imtiaz, insisted that the food was poisoned. “This is going to turn out to be a family dispute,” he said. “Just wait and watch, I have lit a fire and it is going to spread. We’re going to find out what happened very soon.”
According to the other guests at the niyaz, including Faqir Mohammad, there was no sweet rice or yoghurt, just biryani and water to drink.
The tests were carried out at the three-room Chemico-Bacteriological Laboratory in Services Hospital. Forensic experts claim no qualified doctor or examiner was appointed since the laboratory was set up. In 2009, the Sindh High Court said that a grade 20 officer should be appointed at the laboratory but so far this has not been done. At the moment, Dr Fazl Elahi, a grade 19 officer, is in charge.
According to a senior forensics officer used to work at the laboratory, this was a violation of the court’s decision. He said that although there were several other poisons out there, the laboratory could only test for 17 of them since the government had not updated their equipment. Dr Elahi refused to comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2012.
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