07/31/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN

In Karachi, 11nurses drink tea laced with poison during Ramadan

by Jibran Khan
The incident occurred in one of the city's hospitals, where the victims are now recovering in the intensive care unit. The health care facility has launched an inquiry to find out who laced the tea.

Karachi (AsiaNews) - At least 11 nurses, including three Christians, were poisoned at Civil Hospital Karachi for eating during Ramadan. During their afternoon break yesterday, the 11 nurses went to the hostel cafeteria for some tea and food. Rita, a Catholic nurse, collapsed first after drinking her tea. Now all the nurses are in the hospital's intensive care unit, some in very serious conditions.

In Pakistan, eating in public during the Muslim month of fasting is illegal. For Muslims, fasting is compulsory. However, hospital workers and travellers are exempt.

Civil Hospital Karachi staff is made up mostly of Muslims who do not tolerate that their non-Muslim colleagues eat during Ramadan.

In the wake of the incident, hospital officials have opened an inquiry to find the culprits.

The Masihi Foundation, a Christian rights organisation, and Life for All have condemned the incident, calling it a "vile act" against religious freedom and tolerance.

Political and religious leaders have also slammed the action.  For Sindh Saleem Khokahr, a member of the Provincial Assembly and president of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, "poisoning someone for eating in Ramadan is a barbaric act and must be condemned. There are many Muslims who do not fast during Ramadan. These nurses were poisoned for eating in their cafeteria, not in public."

"This act reveals that our society lacks tolerance," said Fr Nasir William, a priest in Karachi diocese. It is scandalous that "nurses who save the lives of the people are fighting for their own lives due to some ignorant person."

For the clergyman, the authorities should launch an investigation for attempted murder.

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