MULTAN: The Punjab government has banned the sale and purchase of paraphenylenediamine (PPD), also known as Kala Pathar, in Multan division for two months after several suicide and murder cases where the hair dye chemical was used, Dawn has learnt.

Commissioner Bilal Ahmad Butt wrote to the the provincial government the chemical was frequently used in suicide and murder cases due to its easily availability in the markets.

The chemical can be bought at as low as Rs10.

The notification stated that 12 murder cases were registered in the division where the deceased had consumed the poison.

The ban was invoked under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1898 in the revenue limits of Multan, Khanewal, Vehari and Lodhran districts.

According to Nishtar Hospital emergency ward data, 594 people were brought to the hospital from January to July 2017 for treatment after they drank liquid spiked with the chemical.

They were brought from Multan, Muzaffargarh, Khanewal, Vehari, Lodhran, Layyah, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts.

Earlier, police had also sought ban on the killer chemical.

Prof of Punjab Medical College Dr Altaf Pervaiz Qasim has conducted an epidemiological study on the emerging trend of self harm by ‘Kala Pathar’. The co-researcher is Victoria Hospital Bahawalpur’s Dr Muhammad Ashraf Ali.

Dr Qasim said as per their study, mostly women had used the fatal chemical to end their lives due to domestic frustration.

He said 109 people were brought to the Victoria Hospital from Jan 1, 2016, to March 10, 2016, and of them 97 (89 per cent) were females. Up to 91 (83.48pc) patients were ages 11 to 30 years and all of them had consumed the chemical to end life. And of them, 104 (95.41pc) patients were from the lower socioeconomic class and were rural dwellers.

He said time was a major factor to save the life of a patient suffering from Kala Pathar. He said there was a need to ban the sale of Kala Pathar in the open market. The trade of the chemical should have some legal aspect. There should be awareness among the masses regarding the toxic effects of the chemical, he said.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2017

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