A gang in Pakistan has been arrested for harvesting and selling on the black market a pretty grisly substance: human spinal fluid.
The case has come to light after the father of a 17-year-old girl went to the police claiming that the group had tapped his daughter’s spinal fluid without her knowledge. It is said that there are up to 12 known victims of the gang, who have been tricking the women by saying that they need to provide a blood sample, while in actual fact they extract their spinal fluid.
The liquid is usually taken in order to perform diagnostic tests for diseases such as cancer and meningitis, and is extracted by inserting a needle between the vertebrae. The procedure is normally harmless, although in this case the girl’s father was alerted to the situation after she complained of feeling faint.
“It’s one of the strangest cases of my career,” said Afzal Butt, from the police department in Hafizabad, where the crime took place. After being alerted to the gang, the police raided a house and arrested four of the group’s members, while also finding vials and needles.
It is reported that they had been active in Hafizabad for some time, with one member “posing as an employee of the District Headquarters Hospital, telling his victims they would need to provide blood samples in order to qualify for the Punjab government's dowry fund,” according to the BBC. Instead of taking the women to a hospital for a blood sample, however, they were driven to a private residence and made to undress before the spinal fluid was drawn.
What exactly the spinal fluid is being sold on the black market for is a little murkier to discern. One report suggests that it might be used by desi hakeems, or homeopaths, but at this point in time, no one is actually sure.
The city of Hafizabad has a pretty dark reputation in this regard, as it sits in a region rather ominously known as Punjab’s “kidney fields.” As the name might suggest, the area is rife with organ traffickers who are trying to move their products between Islamabad and Lahore. While Pakistan outlawed the practice in 2010, the business has just been driven underground.