Pakistan serves controversial food to earthquake survivors

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After experiencing major devastation and loss of lives in the April 25 earthquake, Nepal is left with an unsavoury taste in the mouth when it received packets of ‘beef masala’ as part of the relief package from Pakistan.

Since the majority-Hindu country treats cows as sacred and there is a blanket ban on slaughtering the animal, the development has the potential of triggering diplomatic acrimony between the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries.

Indian doctors at Kathmandu’s Bir Hospital told that packets of ‘beef masala’ were sent by Pakistan on Tuesday as part of relief aid to the temblor survivors. These doctors – drawn from Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) – are members of a 34-member medical team sent to Nepal for treating the survivors.

“When we reached the airport to collect the food items from Pakistan, we found packets of ready-to-eat meals, including packets of ‘beef masala’. There were other food items too,” Dr Balwinder Singh told.

Perplexed, the doctors chose to have food from a hotel instead. “We did not touch the Pakistani aid,” Dr Singh said.

“Most of the local people are not aware of the contents. When they understand, they avoid it,” said another doctor on the condition of anonymity. He added: “Pakistan has hurt Nepal’s religious sentiments by supplying the masala. Shockingly, it did not care about the sensitivity of the matter.”

Exclusive photographs of the ‘beef masala’ packets supplied to Nepal.

A top Nepal government official said: “The matter has been conveyed to Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and the intelligence chief. We are also starting an internal inquiry to verify the facts. If the report is correct, we will raise the matter at the diplomatic level with Pakistan. India, being our key partner, will also be informed of the developments.”

Tasneem Aslam, spokesperson for Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs, told: “I am not aware of the issue… I am not responsible for the dispatch. The relief aid is sent by the National Disaster Management Authority.”

According to Hindu belief, eating beef is a religious offence since cow is a sacred animal and treated on a par with one’s mother.

In Nepal – for long the world’s only Hindu state – the first royal order officially prohibiting cow slaughter stated that the punishments for the crime were death and confiscation of all property of the offender.

The first Civil Code of Nepal, the Muluki Ain of 1854, stated: “This kingdom is the only kingdom in the world where cows, women, and Brahmins may not be killed.” It trumpeted Nepal as the ‘purest Hindu kingdom’ and simultaneously signaled to Nepalese citizens that Hindu religious creeds would be the law of the land.

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