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Court Sentences 2 MQM Workers To Death In Baldia Factory Fire Case

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An anti-terrorism court in Karachi has sentenced two Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) workers, Zubair aka Charya and Rehman alias Bhola, to death for involvement in the Baldia factory fire case.

In 2012, a fire at a factory resulted in the death of over 250 people. A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) had stated in its report that the Baldia Town factory inferno incident was ‘a terrorism act’, rejecting the impression that the fire erupted due to an accident.

The factory’s four gatekeepers — Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood, and Ali Mohammad — are also jailed for life for abetting the crime. The court however acquitted then provincial minister for commerce and industries Rauf Siddiqui along with Iqbal Adeel Khanum and Dr Abdul Sattar Khan.

Court rules in Baldia fire case

Pakistan’s deadliest industrial fire, which killed more than 260 garment factory workers in 2012, was a case of arson and not an accident, the court ruled on Tuesday. The ATC found that the men set the factory ablaze because the owners did not give in to their extortion demands and pay them money.

The fire at Ali Enterprise, a multi-story unit for readymade garment manufacturing in the southern city of Karachi, sent shockwaves through the country as survivors told of people trapped and killed behind locked factory doors.

Of the eight other people accused in the case, four were found complicit while the other four were acquitted, including the then provincial minister for industries, Rauf Siddiqui, defence counsel Abid Zaman told reporters outside the court.

Siddiqui belongs to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), a party linked to years of at times violent political rivalry in Karachi and now a partner in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s coalition government.

As many as 400 witnesses gave statements in 171 hearings that spanned eight years. While the MQM is part of the ruling coalition, the party split into several factions in 2017.

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The current MQM leadership denies any involvement with the fire and says such activities were directed from abroad, where several important leaders live, including the founder of the party, Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile and is now a British citizen.

The party says it has cut all ties with Hussain.

Baldia fire JIT report

A report of JIT formed to investigate the 2012 Baldia factory fire has named Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Hammad Siddiqui as the mastermind behind the deliberate inferno.

The fire that ‘broke out’ on 11th September 2012 at a garment factory in Baldia Town had resulted in the deaths of 289 people and injuries to more than 600 people.

In its report, the JIT has termed an incident of organised terrorism perpetrated by the two accused Hammad Siddiqui and Rahman Bhola against the factory owners for not paying extortion money of nearly Rs 250 million, according to news reports.

The team had held six sessions at the factory, carefully examining the evidence and collecting the accounts of the eyewitnesses, including the employee.

Nullifying the previous investigations, it concluded that the fire did not take place by accident, saying it was an act of terrorism. It also said that the case was mishandled from the first day in a way that it only benefited those behind it. The police, it added, were under pressure and acted partially in the case.

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Naya Daur