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Believe it or not: Anthrax in Biryani
By Amir Mateen, Washington
|The fault of two Pakistani families, whose houses were recently raided by American FBI in Pennsylvania, was that they were seen bringing home a silver pot and throwing soap water in their backyard. This was construed as part of a sordid plot to make anthrax by their neighbours who reported the details to the desperate FBI searching for clues to solve the mystery case.
The raid was the latest of a series of hate crimes that Pakistanis are being subjected to in the US after September 11. The fact that the victim, Dr Irshad Shaikh, dealt with medicines and was a Muslim from a country that hosts thousands of Taliban fitted perfectly into the stereotype image of the neighbours and the FBI. The FBI agents broke down his door and entered his house with guns drawn, followed by members of a hazardous materials team in moon suits and gas masks. They broke the doors, smashed furniture and kept the wife of one of the victims at gunpoint for a considerable time.
Reports suggest that the FBI, acting on a tip related to its so-far fruitless anthrax investigation, carried out its raid in the middle of the day, with neighbours gawking and television cameras running. Among the items the agents confiscated were his computer and his mother's teddy bears. So scared is the family that they are not even complaining about the incident, lest they might be tortured further.
Dr Shaikh, 39, was trained as a radiologist in Pakistan and holds master's and doctoral degrees from John Hopkins University.
The FBI would not give any details of the cause of raid other than to say agents were acting on credible information that they had spent more than two weeks checking out. But it is obvious that the cause of suspicion was a pot the brothers carried to Kazi's house so that his wife could prepare Biryani.
"I'm still in trauma," Kazi told The New York Times. "I cannot sleep properly. I cannot eat. You are worried of the fear of the unknown. What's going to happen tomorrow?" He explained that he had been at work, and his wife, Palwasha, 38, had been home alone, cooking rice for his lunch in her night-gown, when she saw the armed agents running toward the house. "They broke the door," he said. "They kept her sitting at gunpoint, in the dining room on a chair. That's the standard procedure. I am not complaining."
Kazi said the agents questioned him about some Cipro that they had confiscated from his house. Cipro is one of the antibiotics used to treat anthrax. Kazi said that a doctor had prescribed the drugs for his wife to treat repeated bladder infections. He said the FBI also questioned him about "a cloudy liquid" that he was reportedly seen dumping on the ground behind his home. He said it was soapy water from the washing machine that had backed up into the adjacent sink. "My wife is a maniac as far as washing is concerned," he said.
He said agents had also asked about a large silver-coloured canister that the Shaikh brothers were seen putting into their car and unloading at his house. The canister, Kazi and the Shaikh brothers said, was a large silver pot that they had brought for Mrs Kazi to use for her prized Biryani. q
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