RAWALPINDI, Jan 11: DNA identification and burial of the 19 city residents killed by sectarian militants in Mastung on new year’s day has been further delayed as the samples collected from the bodies got lost.

Two local hospitals collected fresh samples on Friday and the process of identification would take a week or 10 days for the bodies to be handed to legal heirs for burial.

Officials said that samples of the relatives of the dead were collected for DNA matching soon after the bodies arrived in the garrison city and kept in mortuaries - 16 in the Holy Family Hospital (HFH) and three in the DHQ Hospital.

How the samples collected from the bodies in Mastung got lost on their way to the Khan Research Laboratory (KRL), nobody knows.

But it became known when relatives got restive over the long wait for the bodies of their dear ones and pestered the hospitals and the KRL for information and were made to shuttle between the two.

Eventually some relatives, with influence, came to know from the KRL that no samples reached them from Mastung for DNA testing to match them with those of the relatives.

An HFH official approached by Dawn said the Mastung administration had to send the samples directly to KRL and blamed it for misplacing them.

When the KRL confirmed that it had not received the samples from Mastung, the HFH sought the help of Rawalpindi district coordination officer.

“DCO Saqib Zafar contacted the Mastung administration which said, in ambiguous terms, that it had dispatched the samples on January 1,” said the HFH official.

With the relatives getting impatient and angry, he said the DCO decided to collect fresh samples from the bodies kept in the mortuaries of two hospitals to get the identification job done.

A doctor who had access to the bodies of the victims of sectarian madness confided to Dawn that they were charred beyond recognition.

“We collected tissues from the bodies and dispatched them to the laboratory. Nail is the ideal sample for DNA testing but flesh can also be used for this purpose. The whole process will take approximately 10 days,” he said.

“It was negligent of the local hospitals not to re-check whether the laboratory had received the samples from the bodies of the dead before sending the samples of the relatives,” he remarked.

HFH Medical Superintendent Dr Arshad Sabir said the bodies would be handed to legal heirs “as soon as we receive the DNA report from the laboratory”.

Meanwhile, the agony of relatives of the victims persists. “It has been a painful, long wait for my grieving family. What a sorrow it is for everyone in our house waiting for the body of our dear mother to arrive,” moaned Mazhar Ali whose family lives in Hasanabad.

She was among the 20 people killed in the terrorist attack on the pilgrims bus heading to Iran.

Like many, Mazhar accused the government of not just failing to provide protection to pilgrims but even delivering the dead for burial.

“My family members have not the heart to do any other work until the burial rituals are completed. We love our mother. She was not an abandoned person. The thought is unbearable for me,” he said, with tears welling up in his eyes.

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