–MQM-P distances itself from the incident, says it wasn’t responsible
KARACHI: An anti-terrorism court in Karachi on Tuesday handed death sentence to two Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) workers for their involvement in the eight-year-old Baldia factory fire case.
The fire ravaged the textile factory complex in Karachi’s Baldia Town in 2012, killing more than 250 workers trapped behind locked doors. The incident was initially deemed as an accident but was later termed as an act of arson.
In a short verdict, which was initially scheduled to be announced on September 17 but was delayed, the court declared that Baldia Town sector-in-charge Abdul Rehman alias Bhola and Zubair alias Charya set the complex ablaze because of the non-payment of extortion money by the owners.
Bhola was arrested in 2016 from Thailand through the Interpol. He was brought back to the country by the Federal Investigation Agency and later handed over to the police for further legal proceedings.
The court, however, acquitted MQM leader Rauf Siddiqui, then provincial minister for commerce and industries, his counsel Abid Zaman said.
Three others, including Iqbal Adeel Khanum and Hyderabad-based businessmen Dr Abdul Sattar Khan, were also acquitted by the court.
The factory’s four gatekeepers — Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad — were convicted for facilitation.
The court has yet to release its detailed verdict.
‘MQM-P NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR INCIDENT’:
MQM-Pakistan leader Faisal Subzwari, in a tweet, quoted a spokesperson for his party as saying that the acquittal of Rauf Siddiqui, a member of the Rabita Committee, in the case “proves that MQM-Pakistan has nothing to do with this case”.
امید کرتے ہیں کہ اعلی عدالتیں سانحہ بلدیہ فیکٹری کیس کے تمام لواحقین کو جلدومکمل انصاف کی فراہمی یقینی بنائیں گی،ترجمان ایم کیوایم پاکستان
واضح کرتے ہیں کہ کسی بھی سماج دشمن اور قانون شکن عناصر کی سرپرستی ایم کیوایم پاکستان کی پالیسی نہ پہلے تھی اور نہ کبھی ہوگی ،ترجمان
— Faisal Subzwari (@faisalsubzwari) September 22, 2020
The spokesperson expressed sympathies with the victims and their relatives for having to wait eight years for the verdict and expressed the hope that the country’s higher courts will ensure complete justice for them.
“[We] make it clear that patronage of any anti-social and law-breaking elements neither was nor will ever be a policy of MQM-Pakistan,” the spokesperson added, according to Subzwari.
Addressing a press conference shortly after the verdict was announced, MQM leader Rauf Siddiqui said that he had resigned from his post when the incident occurred. “People do not let go of a cleaner’s job [but] I had resigned from my post,” he said.
He added that he was thankful for the decision announced by the court. “To this day, I can still hear the screams of the victim’s families,” he further said.
The MQM-P leader said that he was unable to forget the night of the incident, which would come to his mind every time he had to appear in court.
400 WITNESSES TESTIFIED:
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. The prosecution has since given up 369 witnesses for being “unnecessary”.
According to prosecutor Sajid Mehboob Shaikh, a total of 264 people perished in the fire that engulfed the multi-storey building of the readymade garments manufacturing unit. The number included bodies of 17 people who 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.