Pakistan politician sought over poisoning which killed 22

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Pakistani police are seeking the arrest of a local politician in connection with the fatal poisoning of 22 people from a rival branch of his family.

Police allege the politician, Arsal Khan Khichi, hired a cook to poison food at his cousin's home last month.

Mr Khichi had lost to his cousin in a recently-held local election in Punjab.

However, police say his rival was not at home when the poisoning took place. Mr Khichi is thought to be in Dubai and has not commented on the allegations.

The BBC was unable to reach his family for comment.

Police believe the poisoning plot was the result of a political feud between two branches of the family.

They are questioning a cook, Mohammad Rafiq, who says he was paid to poison the food by Arsal Khichi.

"Cook Rafiq has confessed that he poisoned the food after getting 100,000 rupees [about $1,000] from Arsal Khichi," district police officer Vehari Sadiq Ali Dogar told BBC Urdu.

Police were seeking a warrant for the arrest of Arsal Khichi who had "escaped to Dubai on 15 July", he added.

"Arsal had gone to Dubai before the confession of the cook. He runs a business there, so we need to investigate if he was expecting this confession or he went overseas on a routine trip."

The poisoning in the town of Mailsi, about 70km (45 miles) south-east of Multan, took place on 9 June, police say.

It followed followed recent provincial elections in which Arsal Khan Khichi had lost to his cousin Jehanzaeb Khan Khichi, they add.

About 50 people fell ill after the meal, with 22 people dying.

Police say they waited until medical reports confirmed poisoning before they arrested the cook.

"If Arsal Khichi claims he is not involved in this case, he must come back, face the court and prove himself innocent," Jehanzaeb Khan Khichi told BBC Urdu.

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