KARACHI: Police formally launched on Thursday an inquiry into the death of a 10-month-old girl apparently caused by tight security cordon for Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari when he opened a trauma centre at the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) a day earlier.

On Wednesday, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah ordered the South district police to investigate the events and circumstances that led to the death of Bisma, who could not survive due to complications from measles when her father failed to reach the hospital in time.

The shocking images flashed on TV screens of a young man from Lyari running in panic to the CHK with a child wrapped in sheets in his arms as the PPP leader inaugurated the state-of-the-art trauma centre caused countrywide outrage and controversy.

The incident was followed by sharp criticism by the media and opposition political parties and the situation got even worse when certain indifferent statements came from some provincial ministers who, by highlighting dangers to the life of their leader, seemed to belittle the tragic death of the infant.

The trauma on the face of the father, later identified as Faisal Hussain, turned into immense grief when he was informed by doctors at the hospital that Bisma was no more and that the child could have been saved if she had arrived a few minutes early. Officials in the provincial home ministry and police department told Dawn that the inquiry got under way on Thursday and several statements had already been recorded.

Sources said the most important of them all was the statement of the girl’s father, which was recorded by senior police officials at his house near Gabol Park in Lyari.

A source in the home department said that Mr Hussain’s statement had ‘several aspects’ which were different from his initial interviews to the media. However, he did not elaborate the claim.

Some sources further claimed that statements of doctors and staff at the emergency department in the CHK had also been recorded. Besides, they added, the inquiry officials had also got hold of some relevant documents.

These papers, said an official at the hospital, pertained to the visitors who arrived at the emergency facility ‘before and after’ the girl’s arrival. The girl was also provided medical aid before her death, he added.

“The hospital’s record shows that a number of visitors arrived at the emergency, which makes it even puzzling why the girl’s father was denied access [to hospital],” said a provincial government official.

He claimed the emergency department’s gate was open and not shut as Mr Hussain had said in his statement after doctors told him his child was dead.

Officials said the report would be submitted to the chief minister on Friday [today].

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Bilawal House said Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s visit lasted just between 15 and 20 minutes and the road to the trauma centre was ‘separate from that of the CHK’.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari, soon after the media reported the incident, showed his ‘anguish over Bisma’s death and said he was personally inquiring into “this heart-breaking incident to ascertain what went wrong”. He also ordered the Sindh government to conduct an ‘impartial inquiry’.

Similarly, PPP co-chairman, Asif Ali Zardari, also ordered an inquiry into the incident and asked the provincial government to send him a report within 72 hours.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2015

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