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FBI smells anthrax in biryani
 

WASHINGTON, 26 November ó The fault of two Pakistani families, whose houses were raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Pennsylvania last week, 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 neighbors, who reported the details to FBI.

The raid was the latest in the series of hate crimes that Pakistanis have being subjected to in the US after Sept. 11. The fact that the victim, Dr. Irshad Shaikh, dealt with medicine and was a Muslim from a country that hosts thousands of Taleban, fitted perfectly into the stereotype image held by the neighbors and the FBI.

The FBI agents broke down his door on Tuesday 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 anthrax investigation, carried out the raid in the middle of the day. Among the items the agents confiscated were his computer and his motherís teddy bears. So scared is the family that they are not even complaining about the incident.

Dr. Shaikh, 39, was trained as a radiologist in Pakistan and holds masterís and doctoral degrees from John Hopkins University. His brother Masood is the manager of Chesterís program to reduce lead hazards for children. A friend of the family, Asif Kazi, a city accountant who is an American Pakistani, was also subjected to lengthy questioning.

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 things out. But it looks like that the cause of suspicion was a pot the brothers carried to Kaziís house so his wife could prepare biryani.

"Iím 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. Whatís going to happen tomorrow?" He explained that he had been at work, and his wife, Palwasha, 38, had been home alone on Tuesday morning, cooking his lunch, 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. Thatís the standard procedure. I am not complaining."

Kazi said the agents questioned him about some Cipro tablets 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 soap 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-colored canister that the Shaikh brothers, who have been his friends for more than 20 years, 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.

"We are only a two-member family," Kazi said. "We use small pots. She told them, ĎBring a big pot from your house so I can cook for you in quantity.í" The FBI also raided Shaikhís health clinic, questioned a carpenter working there, and seized, among other items, a Gatorade bottle filled with glue that had been used to build shelves. For the FBI, everything and anything was a matter of suspicion, even Pakistani spices. They had to explain about each food item. Kazi may be the most law-abiding citizen in the community. He said that he had never been in trouble, and had only got one parking ticket in his life.

Despite the torment, the families will appear before a federal grand jury on Dec. 20 and there are chances that they may even lose their jobs. All because of one silver pot and biryani. (Raabta)
 

Source: Arab News

 

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