'Samples of liquor were swapped in the hospital room,' remarks CJP

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday, without naming Sharjeel Inam Memon, said that the liquor samples recovered from the PPP leader's hospital room had been tampered with.

"The samples of liquor were changed in the hospital's room," the chief justice remarked during a hearing.

The CJP, who during a surprise visit to Karachi's Ziauddin Hospital last week found three bottles of 'liquor' in the ex-minister's room, remarked on the incident during hearings of two separate unrelated cases in the Supreme Court today.

While hearing a case regarding the shortage of hospitals in Islamabad, Justice Nisar ─ without naming Memon ─ said he did not know how the samples of liquor were swapped, how they were transported to a laboratory for testing, and how the entire process was undertaken.

The CJP said that if he had intended to arrest the "man", he would have done so right then. "I would have had a medical test conducted and had him arrested on the spot."

Later in the day, while hearing a case pertaining to investment in Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), the CJP made further remarks on the matter.

As the name of former petroleum minister and Ziauddin Hospital owner Dr Asim Hussain came up during the hearing, the CJP asked: "Ziauddin Hospital is owned by him, right?"

"I found out that an important prisoner is housed in the presidential suite there," he said, adding: "We are aware of the conversations this prisoner would have at night. Who should be arrested and who should be released was being discussed in the sub-jail."

"I don't drink alcohol myself, but it makes no difference to me if someone else does so," the top judge said. "It seems as though honey and oil were recovered from the bottles after my visit."

Justice Nisar said that if the Sindh government did not support the courts regarding Memon's case, it could be transferred to another province.

Memon, his driver and two servants were booked by police last week under Section 4 (owning or possessing intoxicant) of the Zia-era law, The Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order (4 of 1979).

The section under which the case has been registered reads: "Whoever owns, possesses or keeps in his custody any intoxicant shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term, which may extend to two years, or with whipping not exceeding thirty stripes, and shall also be liable to fine."

Chief Chemical Examiner Dr Zahid Hasan Ansari told Dawn that his department conducts moisture and ash tests manually and that these tests are "quantitative and efficient".

He added: "The free fatty acid test was also performed manually, as well as the saponification and unsponification tests. These are also quantitative test and were performed on the olive oil."

Dr Ansari said that his department has no sophisticated equipment and suggested that "if anyone has reservations over their findings the bottle samples can be sent to the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority, as they have modern equipment and can use those to verify the findings."

Dr Ansari's comment on the matter were sought after a video of him "testing" the substances found in the bottle by dipping his finger and licking it was circulated on social media.

Blood test

Samples of Memon's blood were taken for testing, and the liquid in the recovered bottles was also sent to a lab for testing. Test reports released on Monday showed that there were no traces of alcohol in the PPP leader's blood, and that the liquid in the bottles was honey and olive oil.

However, a special investigation team tasked with probing the matter of recovery of the liquor bottles from Memon's room shared on Tuesday that it had observed some suspicious activity in the hospital with respect to the recovered bottles and a parcel.

The team, referring to CCTV footage from the hospital and other evidence, said that a suspicious parcel had been taken into and then out of the sub-jail without any checking.

According to a press release issued by the team, some suspicious bottles were also recovered from parts of the hospital other than the sub-jail.

The statement said that police and court employees deployed in the sub-jail showed extreme negligence with respect to their duties. The team also highlighted suspicious activities by private employees in the hospital.

The investigation team has decided to extend the scope of the investigation to private employees, jail officials and court police to ascertain the facts surrounding the liquor bottle controversy.

The team has also decided to approach the Health Department for further examination of some evidence as well as a chemical examination report.

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