PAKISTAN: Were nurses poisoned for drinking tea in Ramadan?
By John Pontifex
1 August 2012
Police in Pakistan are investigating allegations that extremists targeted hospital nurses by putting poison in the tea they were drinking one afternoon during Ramadan.
Latest reports state the 11 nurses taken ill at the Civil Hospital Karachi are now out of danger but at least some of them were rushed to intensive care soon after consuming the tea.
The incident on Monday 30 July quickly aroused suspicions and police were called in, with a First Information Report (FIR) being lodged.
The nurses – some of whom required intensive care after drinking the tea – included three Christians. According to local reports, the Masihi Foundation, a Christian rights organisation, said that if true it was “a vile act” against religious freedom and tolerance.
Underlining that the facts of the case were in doubt, Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi told Aid to the Church in Need that he had asked that the incident be investigated by the Catholic advocacy organisation the National Commission for Justice and Peace.
Speaking from Karachi today (Wednesday), Archbishop Coutts said: “It is still unclear what the motive was behind this incident of poisoning.
“Was it a religious motive, was it a criminal motive or was it purely accidental?”
“Whatever the truth, it is definitely a cause for concern and we are hoping to get a clearer picture of what really did happen as soon as possible.”
According to Catholic news agency AsiaNews, most Muslim staff at Civil Hospital Karachi do not tolerate non-Muslim colleagues eating during Ramadan.
The agency also said that hospital officials had opened their own inquiry into the case.
Archbishop Coutts said Karachi was under threat from many extremists with zero tolerance for allegedly ‘un-Islamic’ activity, including breaking the Ramadan fast where eating and drinking are banned from sunrise to sundown.
He said: “Karachi does have some extremist elements but we also have a very diverse community including a large number of Hindus and many others of different faiths.”
Archbishop Coutts, who is well respected for his work to promote inter-faith cooperation, was guest-of-honour at Aid to the Church in Need UK’s Night of Witness in London – a Mass, outdoor rally and prayer vigil for suffering Christians held in May at Westminster Cathedral.