Easily available poison in the shape of Kala Pathar, a chemical used in hair dye, and wheat pill, an insecticide, has contributed to an alarming rise in suicide cases in Punjab's Dera Ghazi Khan district, especially among underprivileged women.

Known by its chemical name of Paraphenylenediamine, Kala Pathar was used by as many as 156 women to attempt suicide last year in DG Khan, it emerged on Friday.

Dr Ibrar Khosa, in charge of the intensive care unit at the teaching hospital of Ghazi Khan Medical College, said 52 women died in 2017 after they either consumed or were fed Kala Pathar.

Besides, five women committed suicide by drinking Kala Pathar-infused water in January 2018 alone, he revealed.

Cheaply available in markets, Kala Pathar is a tasteless chemical that loses its colour when mixed in water. It is increasingly being used in homicide cases as well.

Women in tribal and rural areas often use the fatal substance to end their lives due to domestic frustration. Patients affected by the chemical usually die of renal failure, multi-organ failure and cardiogenic shocks.

The wheat pill, an outdoor and indoor fumigant easily available at departmental stores, is also being used to commit suicide. The tablet can be purchased for as low as Rs15 to Rs20.

At least three married women belonging to the tribal areas recently consumed the pill in DG Khan. Two of them died on the spot, while one was rescued before it was too late.

Dr Khosa stressed that a ban should be imposed on the sale of the two poisonous substances to prevent women in rural areas from resorting to any extreme acts.

When contacted, deputy commissioner DG Khan Ibrahim Junaid said the district government would soon take steps to ban the open sale of Kala Pathar and insecticide tablets.