Zeeshan Abbasi: Assassination by phenyl and other conspiracy theories

Published: December 10, 2012

What this issue highlights is the gaping trust deficit between the two countries. Whenever something happens, we are quick at pointing fingers at each other. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

The news of Pakistan’s visually impaired cricketer, Zeeshan Abbasi ingesting diluted phenyl (as reported by Indian and Pakistani media respectively) was both shocking as well as unfortunate.

Here is a guy, who has overcome all odds in his life, to valiantly claim his rightful place under the sun. Abbasi is an inspiration to all of us. That he had to suffer such hardships on foreign soil -that too in a country which takes great pride in its tradition of “Atithi Devo Bhavah” (The guest is god) should make Indians more concerned about this issue than Pakistanis.

Thankfully, Abbasi received proper medical attention and was out of hospital within a few hours.

While Abbasi was recuperating, an unfortunate set of allegations and counter allegations was unfolding in the media.

As with most issues involving our countries, this too was sensationalised.

Pakistanis were hurt, and rightly so. I can imagine the kind of angst I would feel if one of the Indian cricket players suffered food poisoning while on tour to Pakistan. But to suggest that there was a bigger conspiracy and that Indians tried to kill Abbasi is outright demeaning.

Here are my reasons;

  1. Pakistani cricketers like Saeed Anwar, Inzamamul Haq and Javed Miandad, to name a few, toured India numerous times and blew Indian bowling attack to smithereens. They were never poisoned. My point here isn’t that Abbasi is a lesser player. My point is, considering the kind of volatile relationship between the two countries, neither one can afford to let anything bad happen to the other country’s players/dignitaries on their soil.
  2. Assassination by phenyl? Let’s sit back, cool down and think logically. Does it sound like the most subtle way to take out an ‘enemy’?

What this issue highlights is the gaping trust deficit between the two countries.

Whenever something happens, we are quick at pointing fingers at each other. Indian Mujahideen might plant a bomb in Bangalore, but the first suspect is always Pakistan. Indigenous Baluchis might be fighting for their own rights, but the story won’t be compelling unless RAW is involved.

Sensationalism is the staple diet on which the hawks in both the countries thrive. The Indian hawk knows that a section of Indian population doesn’t buy the ‘Superpower India’ story. He knows that the Maoists and a section of disillusioned Kashmiris are our own people and their grievances must be heard and addressed. But that seems like a tedious process to him. So what does he do? He simply blames the ISI for funding and arming every damned soul who tries to take on the Indian state.

The Pakistani hawk knows how cheated the people of Balochistan feel when their resource rich land is used to brighten the lives of millions of Pakistanis while they are forced to live in abject poverty. But instead of sitting with them and giving them what’s rightly theirs, a nexus of RAW-CIA-Mossad is blamed for all the killings and fighting.

Sadly, this attitude is pervading the psyche of ordinary Indians and Pakistanis.

At times, we get paranoid and that makes us to conclude the worst, no matter how implausible it sounds.

I once drank half a cup of mustard oil in darkness thinking I was holding a cup of tea. A friend of mine once tried brushing his teeth with Fair and Handsome which was kept beside his toothpaste.

My point is, while foul play cannot be completely ruled out, let’s not indulge in imagining all sorts of conspiracy theories until the investigation is complete.

The only foul play I find plausible is that some ignorant mischief monger did this to the poor guy, but that again is for the Bangalore police to investigate. When in India, Abbasi is India’s responsibility and we cannot shy away from it. The least the Indian administration can do is conduct a fast and fair investigation into the issue and, if there was any foul play, punish the guilty with the strictest punishment prescribed for such an offence.

The attendants of Pakistani players need to be more careful in keeping an eye on what the players eat and drink.

Until then, let’s pray for the speedy and complete recovery of Zeeshan Abbasi.

Let this incident be an eye opener for all of us to indulge in positive confidence building discussions instead of jumping to conspiracy theories at the every available opportunity.

Do you believe the Zeeshan Abbasi incident was negligence or an intentional act?

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Read more by Kunal here, or follow him on Twitter @kunal_anand1

Kunal Anand

Kunal Anand

An IT engineer by profession and a writer by choice, Kunal tweets as @kunal_anand1 twitter.com/kunal_anand1

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Pessimist

    What happened with our captain was very unfortunate. Whether it was a deliberate act or an accident, heads need to roll. This was a five star hotel and such negligence could have proven to be fatal.

    For now the Indians should count their lucky stars that nothing serious happened to him or the Pakistani propaganda machine would have been in overflow.

    I’ve also tried to get in touch with ECB and have given them advice to hire a tester for their drinks, or maybe avoid lemonade as a whole. Orange juice anyone? Recommend

  • The K

    Dear Indian Bro!!. I appreciate your effort in defusing the tensions between the two nations. Thanks Almighty ALLAH that Abbasi is safe and out of danger. But we have not heard any thing about the investigations being carried out by the government and nabbing the culprits…Recommend

  • Umair

    The Sensationalism that you mentioned is around 80% related to Indian media. I remember Pak vs Ind semi final in the last world cup hosted by India. One Indian channel presented Pak’s bowling practice session with black square board on the pitch as part of black magic against Indian team. There are several other examples which made me write above sentences.

    Believe me you are among the few Indians who thinks Sensationalism of news is spoiling relations between these two countries however rest of the Indians believe this Sensationalism.Recommend

  • http://kunalanand1989.blogspot.in/ kunal

    @Umair: I can’t compare the entire Pakistani media with Indian media as i don’t have much idea about Pakistani Urdu media. But I do believe that Pakistani English media()except a few hawkish newspapers and channels) is in many ways more mature and restrained than some of the foolhardy newspapers and channels in my own country.
    As far as your “80%” data is concerned, that’s what the 20% sensationalists in both the countries would like us to believe.
    Its our responsibility to differentiate between news,views and propaganda and also help our countrymen,esp kids in doing the same.Recommend

  • roadkashehzada

    u drank half a cup of oil thinking its tea?? either u r super fast in drinking tea or u drink cold tea. anyway….
    oil and tea can be on same shelf, tooth paste and fair & handsome at same shelf also makes sense. but phnyl and water on same table in a hotel??? seriously??
    wht wud u think if someone mistakes harpic as tea and drink it? first question would be who placed harpic on the same shelf? assuming players are staying in a five star hotel, how is it possible in a 2 star hotel? there would be 50 cameras in the hotel.
    when i go for shopping guys give me detergents and food in separate bags. i dont think its a mistake. cant be…..Recommend

  • Alina

    A brilliant article coming from our neighbour!
    Well no one exactly know the real story behind it. It’s actually the way media is reporting this news to a common man, so you can see the outrage from Pakistan. Obviously we are hurt, it’s our player who is suffering. And I seriously wish your government soon finds the culprit or the “real” reason behind it.Recommend

  • Hardliner

    @ Author:

    have u heard the famous Urdu saying “Khasyani Billi Khamba Nochay”…………..Ur clarification is not enough…… we demand ur nation’s apology and punishment to the culprits…. this isn’t a conspiracy theory… its as obvious as the shining sun!! don’t believe me?? try imagining what your outlawed media would have said had the situation been the reverse……..!Recommend

  • Mehkar Sheikh

    Pleasantly surprised by the fact that people from India and Pakistan have finally become capable of talking in decent language , using mostly logic rather than rhetoric and emotional jargon. Recommend

  • Born again Indian


    :-) :-):-) :-):-) :-)
    “A friend of mine once tried brushing his teeth with Fair and Handsome”

    I personally once brushed my teeth with Odomas (A mosquito repellent) almost for 10-20 seconds.
    And I am not impaired (except may be mentally).


  • BlackJack

    I think the incident is regrettable, and as hosts, we should apologize for the inconvenience faced by the player and the anguish caused to his family and fans. As regards Movenpick, it is a Swiss hotel chain that maintains extremely high standards of service – I am flabbergasted by this incredible goof-up. How does phenyl get to a table where people are eating their food? There needs to be a clear explanation of how the phenyl got within reach of the player or the player got within reach of the phenyl – this should clear things up.

    Now, those who claim that this was a plan to kill the poor guy by making him drink a couple of litres of dilute phenyl – this is how it happened. For the past couple of years, RAW has been planning to target players of the prestigious Pakistani team to assuage our hurt feelings from having lost the last four wars and three T20 matches. Sometimes there is a guy on the nearby coconut tree waiting to blow a poison dart; often, we replace the hotel toothpaste with semi-liquid chewing gum to spoil their after-match smile; we have placed nitroglycerine capsules along with hajmola on their pillows; we pipe nitrous oxide into the player’s box just when a batsman is going out to bat; we train local crows to target them with their deadly droppings and make holes in their socks through trained rats; there is a guy who goes around changing the time on their watches so that they sleep late and miss the match; we hack into their email accounts and send jokes to their ex-girlfriends; and yes, we have one man stationed in the dining room, waiting to introduce a highly poisonous untraceable chemical called dilute phenyl into the player’s food. No one is safe – Your well-wisher.Recommend

  • jayant M

    Well i hope this means that the Pakistani cricket tour of India is postponed, the Pakistani artists return from Mumbai and that Indian hospitals stop treating Pakistani babies for heart ailment free of cost. Indians are repeating the same mistake that Prithviraj Chauhan did all those years back.

    What we do need is an even stronger electrified fence and a deep moat along the Pakistan-India border. The MNREGA funds will come in handy in creating the moat. Recommend

  • http://www.zaidzamanhamid.wordpress.com Pasha

    You don’t need to provide any sort of clarification. It is of no use.

    The sensible Pakistani understands the situation and refrain himself from indulging in spreading rumors (and calling for blood).

    While the other kind are just happy that it happened. They are least concerned over the person’s health. For them, it is just an opportunity to spread their hatred against India. No amount of clarification can eradicate that.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com Anoop

    Yes, the incident was an unfortunate one. I am, for one, very embarrassed.Recommend

  • Proud Pakistani

    @jayant M:

    “What we do need is an even stronger electrified fence and a deep moat along the Pakistan-India border. ”

    That is a good idea. Also wall out China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, IOK, and Maoists hit areas as well. I don’t see friendly relations of India with these countries either. Moreover, why to have trade relations with Pakistan and insistence on MFN status. Cut all kind of the ties with Pakistan, we are perfectly happy with that.Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    Indian Mujahideen might plant a bomb
    in Bangalore, but the first suspect is
    always Pakistan

    Wow! almost missed this gem of a statement.
    But, (correct me if I am wrong) a major Indian Mujahideen operative was found in Saudi holding a Pakistani passport and more importantly, Pakistan fought tooth and nail to stop his extradition to India based on technicality that he was holding a Pakistani passport. Good thing that global terrorism is getting dumber by the hour!
    Otherwise I do agree with you the general silliness of the conspiracy theories that fly around the two countries. Must add that most of them seem to originate from a single man from Pak, Zaid Hamid.Recommend

  • Bisharat Baloch

    What happened was definitely unfortunate, but I think it’s completely an accident. In this article, you don’t stress too much about the fact that Zeeshan Abbasi is visually impaired, which is a fact and should be mentioned openly instead of side stepping about it. This is why it would make perfect sense if he consumed something that he wasn’t supposed to by mistake. You talk about your friend using fair and lovely as toothpaste and you drinking mustard oil. Both of you, I assume, have normal visions. Is it so hard to believe that a visually impaired person accidentally picked up the wrong bottle and drank from it? Why that bottle was there on the table is another matter. How do we even know if he picked it up from the table? Maybe he picked it up from the janitorial cart thinking it was the table. We have all seen people in Pakistan use water bottles and soda bottles to store chemicals; I am sure they do the same in India as well.

    Don’t want to sound callous, but the whole incident reminds me of some scene in a comedy movie with Mr. Bean or the Three Stooges or Monty Python where a blind dude accidentally ends up drinking something he wasn’t supposed to. I’m sorry that it happened and that Mr. Zeeshan Abbasi had to suffer in a minor manner, but if you look at it, you must admit that it’s quite comical actually. Recommend

  • Sneha

    @Author: Well said dear!!! Hats off to Tribune that at least by clarifying thoughts between the readers of nations would somehow contribute to PEACE..:)Recommend

  • UHS

    Being on the other side of border, I must admit that Mr. Kunal has summed up the situation very well. Thumbs up bro for trying to diffuse the tension.

    Still, a fast and (hopefully) fair investigation is what we ask for.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Pessimist: “What happened with our captain was very unfortunate. Whether it was a deliberate act or an accident, heads need to roll. This was a five star hotel and such negligence could have proven to be fatal.”

    Agree it was very unfortunate and as an Indian it is very embarrassing. It was a human error where the server had forgotten to remove the penyl bottle after cleaning the table. The error got compounded because the captain was visually impaired and could not have seen what he picked up. The server is suspended, the cameras are being reviewed. The hotel management has apologized. Immediate treatment was provided.. Not sure what else can be done. IT’s not like this was part of the operating procedure to leave phenyl on the table. What specifically would you do differently if you were the GM of this hotel?

    For those still seeking apology – the hotel management has apologized – who else is the apology expected from? Recommend

  • Jamshed

    You friend uses “Fair and Handsome”? You better avoid being seen with that sissy!Recommend

  • bangash

    Zaid Hamid has confirmed that this was all a plot to defeat brave blind cricket team and demoralize Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Jayant m

    @Proud Pakistani
    Let us worry about our relations with other countries. Cutting off trade with Pakistan would be a good thing in my opinion. Let us hope the Pakistan cricket tour is called off. They dont deserve a welcome in India. The moat should extend to the border between JnK and PoK.Recommend

  • johnny lever

    but but but bal tackery did not agreeRecommend

  • Insaan

    @Bisharat Baloch: What happened was definitely unfortunate, but I think it’s completely an accident. In this article, you don’t stress too much about the fact that Zeeshan Abbasi is visually impaired, which is a fact and should be mentioned openly instead of side stepping about it.

    Phenyl smells and even if he took a sip he would have spitted it out. India should investigate the incidenceRecommend

  • faisal karim

    actually, no pakistani media developed any conspiracy theory. i was in the studios when this news came to our desk, and i am a witness to how responsibly pakistani media coped up with the whole issue. i dnt want to name any body, but i am really disapointed by some of the comments made by indian friends above. Recommend

  • Javed

    Agree with Jamshed, stay away from the sissy boy. He’s bad news. :(Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    India didn’t try to kill Zeeshan Abbasi but an Indian did.Recommend

  • saqib

    Lolz at johnny leverRecommend

  • faisal karim

    And yes, you dn’t want me to HIGHLIGHT what indian media did to pakistani team in recent past! so plz, move forward. i keenly observed the indian media after this issue, and the whole night i observed ndtv n aaj tak n what eva! just one NEWS in the whole full hour bulletin. wonder the same would have happened with an indian player here in Pakistan! i can imagine indian electronic media going absolute nuts about it!Recommend

  • eagleye

    OK we all know he is visually impaired, is the captain of the blind cricket team. Can someone tell me a) why was there cleaning fluid on the breakfast table? b) couldn’t he smell the stuff?c) Where was his handler?Recommend

  • pankaj

    Barring a few comments, its very pleasing to see that Indians and Pakistanis have indulged in positive criticism and discussion on this forum. No point using bullets when a conversation can solve an issue.Recommend

  • neon socrates

    @ BlackJack – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA you are awesome :PRecommend

  • Raw ISI

    @blackjack: shhh… don’t leak our plan!Recommend

  • http://Www.google.com Saeed swabian

    Indian government should officially apologize.Recommend

  • HBH

    I agree completely with the writer. Being a Pakistani, I was very disturbed when I heard the news not because of the possibility of there being a “bigger conspiracy”, but because of the way certain sections of both Pakistani and Indian society would have treated it. Even the more educated Pakistanis are making arguments along the lines of “Oh well if it had happened to an Indian touring Pakistan, there would have been a lot more hue and cry”. The short answer to that is that it didn’t happen to an Indian touring Pakistan! It has happened to a Pakistani touring India and the reaction to the incident should have nothing to do with one’s perception of how others might have reacted.

    Even the most expansive conspiracy theorist in me can’t see this as anything grander than a prank, but at any cost it was negligence which I’m sure is being investigated. What one must realize is that these incidents should not be treated as springboards for severing ties and blaming each other for everything (we do plenty of that as it is). Rather we must unite and gracefully say that this incident was a result of pure negligence and not some Indo-Pak enmity. We should also realize that it is in our own interests to treat each other with respect and dignity; to all fellow Pakistanis who are of the Muslim faith: Allah prefers us to be forgiving and magnanimous; resorting to hard-held beliefs in conspiracy theorists does violence to our beliefs and to our self-respect. If this error on the part of an Indian waiter means that we condemn all Indians, then we have no right to oppose people who categorize all Muslims as terrorists.Recommend

  • citizen

    @Saeed swabian:
    Why should a govt apologise for the mistake of a hotel? The hotel has already apologised. shouldn’t we learn the lesson and move on brother?Recommend

  • prabhjyot singh madan

    The entire episode should be seen with a clear picture. India does not indulge in such activities because it can cause international condemnation and can face lawsuit.these kind of activities take place in a pind and not in international politics. Satsri akalRecommend

  • faisal karim

    well I guess MOVING ON should be the recipie now! the captain is OK, Pakistan is in finals …. all is well that ends wellRecommend

  • Zeux

    LOL @ all those people (indians) who voted Negligence. Tell me in which universe phenyl is placed on dinner table. that too in high class hotel. Recommend

  • Zeus

    @Zeux: please enlighten us as to what made you to conclusively conclude that phenyl was on the dinner table? please dont tell some news channel as every channel and paper has its own version of the incidentRecommend

  • sattar rind


  • iron maidenist

    We all want peace, but moving on is not as simple as it looks like, as described by author Indian authorities should find the culprits and as far as Pakistani nation is concerned I can assure the educated people won’t draw ridiculous conclusions from any of this. And yes had it happened to some Indian player, Indian media would have been infuriated so please accept that for once.
    India is not responsible for any of this, as described by author that many Pakistani players have done great job winning matches for their country on Indian soil so if they wanted something like this it could have happened long ago, so its complete non sense to even think about that. What needs to be done is clear and simple, find the culprits and punish them.Recommend