Police register case over minor brothers' deaths, restaurant denies ownership of 'expired meat'

November 14, 2018

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The family had dined out at Arizona Grill restaurant and consumed sweets from a shop outside Chunky Monkey amusement park, say police. —DawnNewsTV
The family had dined out at Arizona Grill restaurant and consumed sweets from a shop outside Chunky Monkey amusement park, say police. —DawnNewsTV

Karachi police on Wednesday registered a case over the deaths of two minor brothers from suspected food poisoning, said South SSP Pir Muhammad Shah.

The case has been registered under Section 322 (punishment for qatl-bis-sabab: Whoever commits qatl bis-sabab shall be liable to diyat) and 272 (adulteration of food or drink intended for sale) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

SSP Shah told Dawn that investigators are poised to record statements of every single person associated with the incident either as a witness or in another capacity including family members of the victim boys, who died on Sunday.

Shah, who is the chairman of a special investigation team formed by Karachi Additional Inspector General Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh to probe the matter, said that the case was lodged based on the narration of the facts described by the mother of the victim brothers, Ayesha.

He said the complainant did not accuse anyone over the death of her minor sons, one-and-half years old Ahmad, and Muhammad aged 5, but raised suspicions in her statement to investigators that her sons might have died due to "consumption of candy or restaurant food".

According to police, the family had dined out on the night of November 10 (Saturday) at Arizona Grill restaurant located in Defence Housing Authority's (DHA) Zamzama area and afterwards, had consumed candy from a shop outside Chunky Monkey amusement park located in Phase IV, DHA.

A body formed to probe the matter, headed by SSP Shah, and including SSP South Investigation Tariq Dharejo and Clifton SP Suhai Aziz, held a meeting on Wednesday, where they examined CCTV footages obtained from the restaurant and the candy shop.

SSP Shah said that 30 samples taken from the home of the victims have been sent to a laboratory in Lahore while four other samples have been sent to Hussain Ebrahim Jamal (HEJ) Research Institute of Chemistry at the University of Karachi, whose findings were expected to be received within seven to 10 days. The findings will help to determine the exact cause of deaths, the investigator said.

The probe body head admitted that most of the samples have been sent to Lahore because the provincial government’s concerned laboratory has become ‘non-functional’ recently.

The investigators have also decided to take statements of the restaurant and shop employees and seven family members separately under Section 161 of Criminal Procedure Code since now a First Information Report (FIR) has been registered.

“So far, no one has been arrested,” said the officer adding that the police are "open to investigating all aspects of the case”.

He said they were not treating anyone as accused at this stage.

Arizona Grill owner denies ownership of godown

Arizona Grill's owner Nadeem Raja has denied claims that the expired meat, discovered a day earlier from the restaurant's alleged godown "had anything to do with Arizona [Zamzama] or any of its branches", DawnNewsTV reported.

Arizona Grill's owner Nadeem Raja and lawyer Bahzad Haider.

"The godown is a separate entity, a separate company, with a separate line of work," he claimed during a television appearance, adding that "the premises was separate, the lease was separate and the staff was separate with a separate setup".

"To say that the godown belongs to Arizona is [fabrication], just to make news. It is just propaganda to blow things up further."

Raja claimed that the meat's discovery was being misconstrued and that the restaurant has proof that the godown was "separate" from Arizona.

Expired meat found at a Karachi restaurant's godown during a raid by authorities. — DawnNewsTV
Expired meat found at a Karachi restaurant's godown during a raid by authorities. — DawnNewsTV

The owner expressed satisfaction at the manner in which the police investigation was being conducted but held serious reservations over Sindh Food Authority's handling of the case. He said that a complaint has been registered in court against the authority for defamation.

"Up till now, the police have been behaving very professionally. They have conducted a proper investigation and taken samples from everywhere. They are also waiting for the results to come before they make any judgement," said Raja.

"Karachi is the biggest, most popular city and Sindh Food Authority does not have a proper lab," he expressed in astonishment.

"How will we receive fair treatment when they don't have a lab or any proper method to take samples. They are just passing judgement without any proof, without waiting for the results. A professional result should be sought before accusing [someone] of anything," the owner added.

The counsel for restaurant's owner, Bahzad Haider, said a high court petition had been submitted requesting that the court order the authority "to refrain from making irresponsible statements until the inquiry is completed".

The court has summoned Director Sindh Food Authority Abrar Shaikh to appear in person on November 20.