KARACHI, Oct 26: The number of unidentified bodies buried by the Edhi Foundation crossed the 200,000th mark earlier this month, as the police and other relevant authorities have failed to devise a system to identify unclaimed corpses despite advanced technological facilities.
The Edhi Foundation said it started the job in the mid-1980s after its founder Abdul Sattar Edhi felt the need for a place where unclaimed bodies could be buried with all religious rituals.
The country’s largest charity since then has buried more than 200,000 bodies at its Mowachh Goth graveyard and the number of deaths in different incidents and accidents has kept growing.
“We started the job in 1984-85,” said Anwar Kazmi, the administrator of the Edhi Foundation. “The then Karachi mayor Abdul Sattar Aghani provided us with a 10-acre piece in the Mowachh Goth area. The need further grew and the authorities gave us two more pieces of land, 10 acres each.”
Since no other system exists, he said, the Edhi Foundation buried every unclaimed body after keeping it for three days at the morgue in Sohrab Goth. A photograph was also taken of the dead to be shown to people visiting the facility in search of their relatives, he said.
“After waiting for three days for claimants, we bury the body in the Mowachh Goth graveyard. Earlier this month we buried the 200,000th body and the number has kept growing. If anyone recognises his or her loved one through the photograph after burial, it’s up to them to shift the body anywhere else.
However, most people do not go for that process and we for their satisfaction remove the number allotted to the grave and put the deceased’s name there,” added Mr Kazmi.
He deplored that despite several attempts by the charity, no system had been developed to identify the bodies. He said the charity reached an agreement with the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) a couple of years back to trace the family links of the unclaimed bodies after obtaining their fingerprints, but the idea did not materialise.
While the police have been implementing a range of projects costing billions of rupees, ranging from an e-policing programme to an upgrade of the forensic investigations system, they have so far ignored the issue of unidentified bodies, which requires no more complicated a system than a mechanism whereby the fingerprints of the body are taken soon after finding it and matched with a Nadra record.
The authorities recognise that it only takes a few seconds to determine the family links of an individual registered with Nadra, but take no interest in the project.
“In this high-tech era, it’s a simple task and we have all due resources to execute that job,” said Muneer Sheikh, AIG for the forensic division.
“The Sindh police’s forensic division has all the resources through which it can trace family links of any unidentified deceased person. We have identified some eight unclaimed bodies at different times.”
He said under the rules the respective police station should inform the forensic division that was bound to take fingerprint of every unidentified body. The Sindh police authorities had notified the regulations, but they were not being followed, he added.
“If the fingerprints are acquired of each body, we have ample resources to trace the deceased’s family links. It just takes a phone call to the forensic division by the investigation office of the respective police station, but unfortunately there is a sheer lack of seriousness on part of the officers,” added AIG Sheikh.