KARACHI: The owner and administration staff of a factory linked to a deadly stampede at a free ration distribution point in Karachi have been booked by police, according to reports on Saturday.
At least 11 women and children were killed on Friday after hundreds of people gathered at a factory in Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE), the city’s industrial area, to collect edibles — which is part of charity drives that locals hold every Ramadan to help the needy, according to Geo News.
An administration official said 600 to 700 people were coralled in the small compound. “When they opened the main gate, all the people rushed in,” added 22-year-old Fatima Noor, whose sister died in the crush.
The case has been registered at the SITE A police station and is being pursued under Sections 322, 337-H(2), and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) by sub-inspector Malik Asif Zia.
The first information report (FIR) said that negligence by factory staff caused the stampede. It also revealed that two factory managers had been distributing cash as zakat on behalf of the factory owner, Abdul Khaliq, for several years.
The nominated suspects include Khaliq, the managers, and seven others, and eight suspects, including the owner and managers, have already been detained for questioning.
Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister, has ordered an investigation into the incident. He also asked charities and business owners to inform the police before organising such Ramadan handouts.
There was no comment from the prime minister’s office. “That is a provincial subject,” a government official told The Associated Press. “CM Sindh can respond,” the official added.
It is the deadliest stampede at a food distribution point since the start of fasting during Ramadan. With the latest incident, the death toll from stampedes at free food centres across the country has risen to at least 21 since last week.
Pakistan’s finances have been hobbled by decades of financial mismanagement and political chaos. The situation has been exacerbated by the global energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the crippling monsoon floods last year which submerged a third of the country.
Weekly inflation is 45 percent, unseen since Pakistan got its independence from British colonial rule in 1947. Rising food costs and soaring fuel bills have raised fears of public unrest.
The nation is deep in debt and must enact tough tax reforms and push up utility prices if it hopes to unlock another tranche of a $6.5 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bail-out and avoid defaulting.
— With AFP and AP