KARACHI, Oct 28: Panic, commotion and complete chaos was witnessed as ambulance after ambulance with unconscious and semi-conscious women workers of a garment factory in Landhi started pulling up in front of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre’s emergency section on Monday morning.
Hearing the screams and wails of the semi-conscious women, the ones just regaining consciousness also became hysterical and fainted once again. Those who continued to scream were given thorough checkups and administered injections to help calm them down by the doctors.
“I saw a big black ghost in the washroom. It resembled a shadow but was far bigger than any shadow I have ever seen,” said Shagufta Naz, a young helper in the factory’s checking department.
“For days, we could hear the mysterious sound of a man sobbing in the washroom. We couldn’t explain it. But today we saw him too and he wasn’t an earthly being,” she says as a female patient lying on a stretcher in front of her screamed and Ms Naz echoed her before breaking down in sobs herself.
Daisy Nasreen, head nurse at the JPMC’s emergency, said that they were really finding it hard to calm all the women down. “One screams and the others suddenly follow suit,” she said.
Another girl couldn’t even remember her own name. “I am Suhee,” she said before her mother reminded her that her name was Shahina. “Oh yes, I am Shahina,” she said finally.
Asked what had happened to her, she said: “I didn’t see anything. But one or two girls who went to the washroom screamed for help from inside. Then one came running out and started strangling herself with her own chador. Suddenly even I felt that someone was strangling me. Then all the girls on our floor too couldn’t seem to breathe. They complained of a choking kind of feeling.”
She continued: “One of my colleagues had also seen something sinister in the washroom after which she fell unconscious and was sent home. She didn’t come to work for several days but when she did, she was not herself. Then she saw something again and didn’t come back. We heard later that she died a day before Eid. Another girl in the washroom at the same time when she saw the ghost also complained of the same. She has also not returned. Now we hear that she is seriously ill, too.”
When asked if there was only one washroom for the girls in the entire factory building, Shahina said: “No, but that shadow was also present in the one downstairs. Our employer also called in a maulvi after realising what was wrong but the maulvi after coming to the factory and reciting some holy text also suddenly screamed and ran away without looking back. So it is true. The place is haunted.”Earlier, it was feared that there was some leakage of poisonous gas that had caused the problem. “Had that been true, why didn’t it affect us men,” said Mohammad Yasin, another worker at the factory.
“We got seven women first at 11.25am and then between 12.05pm and 12.50pm more followed. The ambulances transporting them here had more than just one or two women. Each pickup had several loaded and stuffed inside like sheep or goats. And these emergency services weren’t even waiting to let us bring out the stretchers for them. All were quickly carried inside by them. We immediately carried out our emergency disaster programme.
“The women were flapping their arms and batting their eyelids as our doctors tried to figure out what was the matter with them. Their vitals parameters were fine. Their oxygen saturation tests came out normal. Had it really been carbon monoxide poisoning, they could have all died almost immediately. It was really the rescue people who were causing panic more than the patients themselves, telling everyone that the women had inhaled poisonous gas. This kind of thing is also traumatising for us doctors as we are here for something else but have to deal with something else altogether. Anyway, I have just called in our head of the psychiatry and neurology department, Prof Dr Mohammad Iqbal Afridi,” said JPMC emergency department head Dr Seemin Jamali.
After having seen the disturbed patients, Prof Dr Afridi was of the view that it was a case of mass hysteria. “Jinn, bhoot, churail are common mentions in developing countries such as ours. What we have here is a case or mass hysteria and possession syndrome. The women were all extremely scared and wouldn’t listen to reason, not even to suggestions that they recite the four Qul or Ayatul Kursi if they believed that there was something evil after them.
“Their five to six attendants or family members around them were also up to no good scaring them further by believing whatever they were saying instead of helping to calm them down. We asked them to relax so that the patients could do the same. In the meantime, we had to give some patients injections in order to calm them down,” he said.
Meanwhile, a few family members waiting outside the hospital’s emergency said that they had no faith in the doctors inside who were discharging the women after giving them a clean slate of health. “These doctors are not very helpful. I think we should refer to a higher power. Let’s take them to a religious person or exorcist,” said Abdul Qudoos, adding that his younger sister was released by the hospital earlier.
“It is a good thing that all this happened at the time of Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s Urs,” said another relative. “We must take these poor women there.”