Published: 12:45 GMT Daylight Time - Monday 06 August 2012
Call for probe into suspected poisoning of Christian nurses in Pakistan
Country/Region: Pakistan, South and East Asia
Christian leaders in Pakistan have called for an investigation into the suspected poisoning of eleven Christian student nurses, who may have been targeted for breaking Ramadan fasting rules.
The trainees fell ill within seconds of drinking tea during a group study session at the hostel of the Karachi Civil Hospital on 29 July. It is thought that poison had been added to the tea while it was left unattended on the stove.
One of the victims, Rita James, who spent two days on a ventilator following the incident, said:
After the first two sips, it was very tough for me to breathe and my throat started getting dry.
Three of the women required intensive care treatment, while the other eight were taken to the emergency department. The students were quickly discharged, giving rise to concerns that the hospital was trying to cover up what had happened. They had to be readmitted the next day when they developed complications.
Some of them suspect that they may have been targeted by Muslims who were angry that they had violated Ramadan fasting rules, which forbid eating and drinking during daylight hours. This particular incident, however, took place after nightfall.
Parliamentarian Saleem Khokhar led the calls from Christian leaders for an investigation into the matter, while the All Pakistan Christian League held a demonstration outside the hospital.
Michael Javed, a former member of the Pakistan Assembly (MPA), said that religious minorities respected Muslims by refraining from eating and drinking in front of them during Ramadan, and it would therefore be unfortunate if it turned out that the Christian nurses had been poisoned over this issue.
Abdul Hai of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan added, "A large number of nurses are Christians and are [already] subjected to ill-treatment and prejudice."
The hospital has reported the incident to the police, and tea samples have been sent for toxicology tests.