KARACHI: Christian leaders have called for an impartial inquiry into the alleged poisoning of nine nurses at a government-run hospital.
Nine Christian trainee nurses at the Civil Hospital Karachi fell ill Sunday night allegedly after drinking poisoned tea prepared at their hostel. They were claimed to have been deliberately poisoned because of their faith.
Parliamentarian Saleem Khokhar, while speaking to The Express Tribune, called on the government and the police to launch a joint investigation to find out the actual cause of poisoning. While rumours initially floated that the poisoning took place as the nurses were drinking tea when their Muslim colleagues were fasting, Khokhar ruled that out, saying that the incident took place late night when everyone had broken their fast.
Condemning the incident, Christian leader Michael Javed went a step ahead and asked for a judicial investigation.
Claiming that the society has become extremely intolerant and was not allowing the minorities to live in peace, the former MPA requested the chief justice to take suo motu notice of the incident. “The government has turned a blind eye to the persecution of minorities; our girls are being [forcibly] converted and our churches are being attacked,” he lamented. Javed said that it was unfortunate if the nurses were really poisoned because the religious minorities also respect the Muslim faith and refrain from drinks and food in front of them. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Abdul Hai also expressed concern over the incident. “A large number of nurses are Christians and are [already] subjected to ill-treatment and prejudice,” he added.
Lambasting the incident, the Christian community members also organised a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday.
William Sadiq, the coordinator of a welfare organisation working for minority women, was suspicious of the hospital administration and alleged that they were hiding the real matter. She suspected some other girls in the hostel may have poisoned the students over some rivalry. “It could even be religious targeting,” said Sadiq. The Christian leaders also shouted slogans outside the Karachi Press Club against the hospital’s administration and the rising religious intolerance.
The Civil hospital medical superintendent, Prof Saeed Quraishy, ruled out the involvement of anyone from the hostel, however. “They made the tea themselves, how can there be someone else involved,” he said.
He added that the hospital has registered a case at the Eidgah Police Station and tea samples have been sent to the Aga Khan University Hospital for toxicology tests. He confirmed that except for one student who is still admitted to the hospital, all ‘poisoned’ nurses were discharged.
According to one of the affected nurses, a colleague had made the tea after 10pm and immediately after drinking the tea they fell ill. They were taken to the Civil hospital’s emergency and sent back after treatment. But the students developed complications in the morning and had to be taken to the hospital again.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.
Correction: In an earlier version of the article, the word ‘tea’ was mistakenly written as ‘liquor’ at one instance. The error is regretted.