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- Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - From Print Edition


Two witnesses to the Baldia Town factory fire of last week told court on Tuesday that the entry and exist gates of the ill-fated factory were closed on the day the incident occurred.


The witnesses, both employees of the garment factory, Ali Enterprises, recorded their statements before Judicial Magistrate (West-II) Sohail Ahmed Mashori under Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code.


The unprecedented industrial tragedy, which saw 260 labourers lost to the inferno on September 11, prompted calls for an overhaul of poor safety standards. A case was registered against the owners by the SITE-B police.


A machine operator of the 3,000-square-yard factory, Umer, and accountant Khurram Iqbal said in their statements that the owners were present at the factory when the Category 3 broke out.


They said that usually the gates remained open but unluckily they were found closed on the day of the fire erupted.


Another witness, Khuram Iqbal, told the judge that the fire had erupted on the ground floor and many people died from suffocation and burn injuries.


The factory owners, Shahid Bhaila, Arshad Bhaila and Abdul Aziz, did not attend the hearing. The court had summoned them a day earlier.


The owners have been issued with notices to appear on September 19. The court has also allowed police to produce other witnesses who desire to record their statements.


After Tuesday’s hearing, SP Saqib Sultan told reporters that the two witnesses proved to be courageous and he was expecting that other eyewitnesses due in court on Wednesday (today) would record their statements “honestly and without any fear”.


The court on September 17 had directed the Sate Bank of Pakistan and other banks to freeze accounts of the factory owners.


The judge had heard from the investigation officer in the case that the owners could withdraw at least Rs5,100 million from their accounts. The investigation officer had also prayed to the court to record the statements of the three accused, including Abdul Aziz.


Granting the plea, the court issued notices to the accused and the prosecutor to appear so that their statements could be recorded.