Saturday June 22, 2024

‘289 people were killed for not getting Rs200m extortion’

Factory owners made to pay Rs150m for disposal of case; Rangers present Baldia Town factory fire probe report in SHC

By our correspondents
February 07, 2015
KARACHI: The Baldia Town factory fire case took a new turn on Friday when a terror suspect from a political party disclosed before the seven-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that Ali Enterprise garment factory was set on fire by members of a political party on refusal to pay Rs200 million as extortion money by the factory owners in September 2012.
Rangers have presented the JIT report before the Sindh High Court (SHC).
The JIT report of terror suspect Rizwan Qureshi, who is stated to be associated with the political party, was submitted before the SHC, which ordered heads of Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency and the Rangers to submit their investigation reports, if any, conducted with regard to the Baldia fire incident that claimed the lives of 289 persons on September 11, 2012.
The terror suspect disclosed before the JIT he was informed by a Baldia Town activist of the political party that a party senior official demanded Rs200 million through his frontman from the factory owners in August 2012.
He said that factory owners met the activist of Baldia Town Asghar Baig and told him that someone had demanded extortion in the name of the party. He said that the activist and his brother Majid took the factory owner to the party office and met with the then in-charge of the organising committee upon which they said that this matter was not from their side and later suspended the activist of Baldia Town. He disclosed that after the suspension of Asghar Baig, Rehman Bhola was given the task to collect the extortion money and on refusal of payment, Rehman Bhola and his unidentified accomplice threw a chemical substance in the factory that caused the fire.
Rizwan, who was a sanitary sub-inspector of Saddar Town, further disclosed before the JIT that on the orders of the party high official, an ex-minister went to the police station and registered a case against the factory owners. He said that the ex-minister used his influence to get the bail of factory owners canceled. He said that the CID had arrested Majid, a brother of Asghar, but on the instruction of the political party, the factory owners gave a statement before the police that Majid was not involved in the incident and he was subsequently released.
He said the ex-prime minister also withdrew help from the factory owners after intervention of the high official of the political party and unknown frontman of the same party’s high official collected Rs150 million from the factory owner for disposal of the case.
He also admitted killing of several political and religious activists on the directives of the high-ups and disclosed that media anchorpersons, political and activists of religious parties were on their hit-list for targeted killing as they indulged in anti-party programmes and activities. He also admitted to making an attempt to kill ANP leader Shahi Syed and SSP Umer Shahid. He disclosed that Talha and other party activists cast approximately 30,000 bogus votes in the May 2013 election in the national and provincial assembly constituencies NA-251 and PS-114 in the Society area.
The additional attorney general submitted various intelligence reports under the cover of a statement from deputy assistant judge, advocate general of Pakistan, Rangers, which were taken on record.
The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and others had filed petitions in the Sindh High Court for the constitution of a judicial commission, which might fix the responsibility on persons responsible for the Baldia Town fire incident at the Ali Enterprise factory that claimed the lives of as many as 289 persons on September 11, 2012 and suggest monetary compensation to the legal heirs of inferno victims.
The Nazir of the court informed that all the 672 legal heirs of deceased victims had received cheques of death grant while 128 cheques were yet to be delivered. On the plea regarding the transfer of investigation officer, SHC’s division bench, headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar, observed that DIG Sultan Khawaja was presently supervising the conduct of cases by the investigation officer and directed the trial court to proceed the matter expeditiously so that the trial may be concluded within a year. The hearing of the case has been adjourned till next week.