Pakistan's minority Christian community's leaders have demanded an impartial inquiry into the alleged poisoning of nine nurses at a government-run hospital.
The nine Christian trainee nurses at the Civil Hospital in Karachi fell ill on Sunday night after reportedly drinking poisoned tea prepared at their hostel.
They were claimed to have been deliberately poisoned because of their faith.
According to one of the affected nurses, a colleague had made the tea after 10pm and they fell ill immediately after drinking it.
The nurses were taken to the Civil Hospital's emergency ward and sent back after treatment.
They developed complications the next morning and had to be taken to the hospital again.
Parliamentarian Saleem Khokhar told 'The Express Tribune' that the government and police should launch a joint investigation to find out the actual cause of the poisoning.
Rumours initially suggested that the poisoning occurred as the nurses were drinking tea while their Muslim colleagues were fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramzan.
Khokhar ruled this out, saying the incident took place late at night when everyone had broken their fast.
Condemning the incident, Christian leader Michael Javed sought a judicial investigation.
Claiming that society had become extremely intolerant and was not allowing minorities to live in peace, the former legislator asked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the incident.
"The government has turned a blind eye to the persecution of minorities; our girls are being (forcibly) converted and our churches are being attacked," he said.
Javed said it was unfortunate if the nurses were really poisoned because the religious minorities respect the Muslim faith and refrain from drinking and eating in front of them during Ramzan.
Abdul Hai of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed concern at the incident.
"A large number of nurses are Christians and are (already) subjected to ill-treatment and prejudice," he said.
Members of the Christian community organised a news conference at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday to protest the incident.
William Sadiq, coordinator of a welfare organization working for minority women, was suspicious of the Civil Hospital's administration and alleged that it was hiding the real matter.
He suspected some women in the hostel may have poisoned the Christians over some rivalry.
"It could even be religious targeting," said Sadiq.
Christian leaders shouted slogans outside the Karachi Press Club against the Civil Hospital's administration and rising religious intolerance.
Civil Hospital Medical Superintendent Saeed Quraishy ruled out the involvement of anyone from the hostel.
"They (Christians) made the tea themselves, how can there be someone else involved?" he asked.
The hospital has registered a case at Eidgah police station and tea samples have been sent to Aga Khan University Hospital for toxicology tests.
Quraishy said that except for one student who is still admitted in hospital, all the "poisoned" nurses had been discharged.