KARACHI: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi, was expected to wrap up the hearing regarding the high-profile Baldia factory fire case today, but it has instead adjourned the proceedings until September 22 after the submission of additional documents by the state prosecutor.
When the multi-storey Ali Enterprises garment factory was set on fire in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012, over the alleged non-payment of ‘protection money’, over 260 workers lost their lives in what became the deadliest industrial blaze in Pakistan’s history.
The trial was being conducted in the judicial complex inside the central prison, and the ACT-VII judge was expected to conclude it today as the recordings of evidence and testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, statements of the accused persons and final arguments from the special public prosecutor and defence counsel for the accused had almost been completed.
However, the public prosecutor submitted the list of victims who received compensation from the government and a foreign buyer of Ali Enterprises’ products to the court during today’s hearing.
The next hearing scheduled for September 22, wherein the judge will hear further arguments.
Ten accused — then-provincial minister for commerce and industries Rauf Siddiqui, MQM’s then Baldia Town sector in-charge Abdul Rehman alias Bhola, Zubair alias Charya, Hyderabad-based businessmen Dr Abdul Sattar Khan, Umar Hasan Qadri, Iqbal Adeeb Khanum and the ill-fated industrial unit’s four gatekeepers — Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad — were charged with setting ablaze the factory.
They allegedly acted on the instructions of the then chief of Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, Hammad Siddiqui.
Hammad and businessman Ali Hasan Qadri were declared proclaimed offenders in the case as both were reportedly in hiding abroad.
The prosecution had rested its case after recording material evidence including forensic, ballistic and chemical analysis reports and testimonies of 400 witnesses against the accused.
A total of 264 people perished in the fire that engulfed the multi-storey building of the readymade garments manufacturing unit due to the so-called non-payment of Rs250 million protection money, according to prosecutor Sajid Mehboob Shaikh. There were 17 bodies that were charred beyond recognition.
All the accused persons have denied the allegations levelled by the prosecution, which is led by the Rangers instead of police.