KARACHI: An infant died at the doorstep of the Civil Hospital here on Wednesday as, according to officials and witnesses, she did not receive medical treatment in time because of a security cordon for PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The blood-curdling images flashed on TV screens of a young man from Lyari running in frenzy to the hospital with a 10-month child wrapped under dark sheets in his arms as the PPP chairman was inaugurating a state of the art trauma centre.
The trauma on the face of the father, later identified as Faisal, turned into grief when he was informed by doctors at the hospital that the child, Bisma, suffering from measles complications, was no longer alive and she could have been saved had she arrived a few minutes earlier.
But an angry Faisal dismissed this observation, saying that the security cordon had made it impossible for him to reach the hospital in time.
“My Bisma died after policemen refused us entry to [the hospital’s] emergency ward for over an hour,” the sobbing father told journalists as all the cameras, meant to cover Bilawal, focused on him and his family.
“Doctors said Bisma could have been saved if she was brought to the hospital 10 minutes earlier,” he wailed.
“There was a traffic jam outside the hospital. I had to abandon my motorcycle to reach [the hospital]. I had reached the hospital, but they refused to let me in and made more delays,” he said.
The scheme of events turned everything upside down. The opening of a trauma centre itself got off to a traumatic beginning.
Some senior provincial ministers came forward to defend their government and the party leadership over the mandatory protocol arrangements.
The worst came from senior provincial minister Nisar Khuhro. He told reporters that Mr Bilawal was dear to the party and there were genuine security concerns to him and his family. But in the same breath he apologised to the family of the deceased child “if she died because of security [cordon]”.
Sindh Health Minister Jam Mehtab Dahar’s feeble defence was: “Life and death are in the hand of God.”
BILAWAL’S SNUB: In his tweet and later in a brief statement, the PPP chairman, however, virtually snubbed all party members and expressed his personal ‘anguish’ at the death of the toddler.
“Anguished over Bisma’s death. Am personally inquiring into this heart breaking incident to ascertain what went wrong,” he tweeted.
In the statement, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took ‘strong notice’ of reports in the media about the death of the girl due to VVIP security during his visit for the trauma centre’s inauguration.
He ordered the Sindh government to conduct an ‘impartial inquiry’.
“A transparent inquiry should be conducted into the reported death and complete findings should be made public. Anyone found responsible must be taken to task,” he said.
In a separate statement, the PPP chairman also ordered that all events relating to hospitals be held at the Chief Minister’s House to avoid such tragedies.
PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari also ordered an inquiry into the incident and asked the provincial government to send him a report within 72 hours.
Some news channels interviewed Bisma’s mother. She asked Mr Bilawal and other high-ups to ensure “no child dies because of their security”. She said police had stopped them from going further after a certain point, leading to the death of her child.
Residents near Gabol Park in Lyari said the atmosphere in the area was charged as a big, agitated crowd was building up outside Bisma’s house.
Nadia Gabol, a Sindh government adviser, arrived in the area to offer condolences amid loud slogans against the PPP and its leadership.
Leaders of several opposition parties, including Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and PML-N, criticised the provincial government.
SINDH CM: Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah expressed sorrow over the death of Bisma and said he had directed the DIG South to conduct a thorough inquiry into the episode.
Talking to reporters along with Bisma’s father Faisal in Lyari, he said the death of the girl was a tragedy and should not be “blown up”.
He was accompanied by provincial minister Syed Nasir Shah, IG Ghulam Hyder Jamali and Nadia Gabol.
The chief minister said the trauma centre was at a considerable distance from the Civil Hospital and roads leading to it were open and had normal traffic.
“After meeting Mr Faisal, I have heard that she (Bisma) was already in serious condition and had breathed her last while being taken to the hospital. But some people tried to do politics on this issue,” he said.
Mr Faisal told reporters that nobody was responsible for the death of his daughter. “Her life was too short. I am thankful to the chief minister for visiting me and offering condolences.”
Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2015