ISLAMABAD: Mohammad Yousaf is convinced he was shot by a live bullet. From his bed in the sprawling Pakistan Institute for Medical Sciences (Pims), he holds up an X-ray of his knee to the light and, pointing at a bright, white spot on the film, asks, “What else do you think this is?”
It is a question no one can answer definitively. Doctors say that unless the object – which they classify as ‘a foreign body’ – is removed, there is no way to say for sure whether it is a bullet or not.
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Yousaf is not the only one who has hospital authorities and reporters puzzled. Several of the injured who were brought in to Pims after the pitched battles on Constitution Avenue had suffered injuries that could not be attributed to rubber bullets.
Pims Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Akram told Dawn that rubber bullets do not penetrate the skin and hence do not present with entry/exit wounds – which are the tell-tale sign of a gunshot wound.
Victims with mysterious wounds caused by ‘foreign objects’ confuse doctors
“Only a forensic analysis of the foreign objects inside these patients will be able to ascertain whether these injuries were caused by live rounds or not,” said Dr Akram.
However, he confirmed that two individuals who had died of their wounds at the hospital on Sunday suffered penetrative wounds. Gulfam Adil Mehmood died when a foreign object entered his abdomen from the side and exited from the other end. Rafiullah’s cause of death was ruled to be a foreign object that penetrated his skull, the official confirmed.
Most independent specialists Dawn spoke to said that rubber objects appeared ‘hazy’ on X-Ray scans and were not as clearly defined as the objects in Yousaf’s X-Rays. While the object appeared to be bullet-shaped, every doctor Dawn spoke to said that they could not say for sure until the object was removed and examined.
Dr Akram told Dawn that he had spoken to Interior Secretary Shahid Khan to ascertain what kind of ammunition was being used, so he may order treatment accordingly. According to him, the interior secretary said that live rounds were not being used by police.
The mystery will hopefully be solved on Monday, when doctors operate on Yousaf’s knee to extract the foreign object.
The 23-year-old, who also received three rubber bullets in the right shoulder and his wrist, has bruises all over his body.
Yousaf was a recent convert to the protesters’ cause. Having served in the Punjab police for nearly four years, he quit his job to join Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek because, he figured, their ideology made more sense.
Okara-resident Abdul Majid is another victim of the mysterious ‘foreign objects’. He was hit in the leg and the object shattered his shin. From his hospital bed, the 25-year-old with blood-stained clothes also showed Dawn his X-Ray. Surely enough, the scan showed there was another bright object buried in his body.
Usman Gulfam is also adamant that he was shot with a live round. A foreign object had shattered his thighbone into six pieces and can be seen embedded in his knee on the X-Ray scan of the 24-year-old from Karachi.
Worse off is Irfan Mushtaq, whose jaw was fractured and three teeth broken by a similar ‘foreign object’. Mushtaq’s wounds are eerily similar to the entry-exit wounds caused by live ammunition.
“It was a bullet,” he told Dawn, while awaiting a second surgery.
To investigate, Dr Akram the hospital administrator said, “The hospital has formed a committee under Dr Nasir Ahmed – a forensic expert. All the X-Rays and CT scans of such victims will become part of the investigation”.
However, he said that at the moment, the hospital’s priority would be to treat the injured coming into the Emergency Room.
Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2014