Nine leading Pakistani clerics, who had gathered for a meeting that declared suicide attacks as un-Islamic, fell seriously ill after eating 'halwa' served to them, prompting the police to investigate whether an attempt was made to murder them.
Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman, Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Liaquat Baloch and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam's deputy chief Abdul Khaliq are among the nine 'ulema' who fainted after eating the 'halwa' at the apartment of Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haidri in the parliament lodges on Friday.
They were admitted for emergency treatment to Federal Government Services Hospital and remained in semi-unconscious condition for almost 10 hours.
Officials said their stomachs were cleaned and the hospital's Protocol Officer Raja Ilyas described their condition as "out of danger but still critical".
Some of the clerics are still in the ICU and emergency ward, as they still had digestion problems.
Ilyas said they would remain under observation till Friday evening.
"Timely medical treatment helped avoid any unfortunate happening, as a minor delay could have proved lethal," he said.
The police have registered a case of attempted murder and "causing harm by means of poison".
The clerics had gathered for a conference of religious scholars that later declared suicide attacks as un-Islamic.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Bin Yamin said the remaining halwa, believed to have been brought from Dera Ismail Khan, had been sent for tests.
The halwa was properly packed and opened for first time on Thursday, he said.
The servant of Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haidri, a senior leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam faction led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, told journalists that the halwa was delivered to the parliamentarian's apartment by a man on Wednesday.
The cook said he did not know the man, but would recognise him if he saw him again. Haidri did not eat the halwa as he has diabetes.
He also told reporters he believes he was the actual target of the person, who sent him the halwa.
However, some relatives of the clerics who fell ill claimed he might have had a role in "poisoning" them.
Abdul Khaliq's son Abdullah even exchanged heated words with Haidri at the hospital.
A possible clash between supporters of both men was prevented by policemen posted at the hospital.The meeting that the clerics were attending later unanimously declared suicide attacks in the country as un-Islamic and forbidden by Islam. The meet, arranged by the religious affairs ministry, also denounced the killing of innocent people in the name of religion. Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Religious Affairs Minister Allama Hamid Saeed Kazmi, who recently escaped an assassination bid, also participated in the meeting.