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December 29, 2016

Attack on Baldia factory was planned at MQM sector office ground, testifies new suspect

Karachi

December 29, 2016

In a chilling confessional statement, an accomplice of Rahman Bhola, a key suspect in the Baldia factory fire case, has said that the plan to set ablaze the Ali Enterprises garments factory was made at the Baldia Town sector office ground of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Geo News reported on Wednesday.

Ghulam Ali alias Goli testified in his statement that on the day of the incident on September 11, 2012, Kalo Dada had asked him by telephone to come to the ground.

He said that after planning the arson attack, he, along with Bhola and others, went to the factory in a white car and on motorcycles. There, he said, they closed the gates before setting the factory on fire with chemicals, leaving hundreds of labourers trapped inside.

The suspect recalled that they later came to know that the fire had engulfed the entire building. He said the attackers had weapons on them.

In what is described as the country’s worst industrial tragedy, 259 workers, including women, perished in the inferno that raged throughout the night and into the following day.

Rahman, alias Bhola,  who was the MQM sector incharge in Baldia Town at the time of the incident, recorded his confessional statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code before a judicial magistrate (West) on December 22. 

He said he, Zubair alias Charya (wh also worked at the factory) and others, had set fire to the building.

The prime suspect said he was directed by the then head of the MQM Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, Hammad Siddiqui, to attack Ali Enterprises.

Following which, added Bhola, he, Charya and others had doused the factory with a chemical that caught fire and spread throughout the unit.

His physical remand had been extended for 10 days – until December 29 – in the December 19 hearing at an anti-terrorism court (ATC), which is the trial court.

The same ATC had also ordered arresting absconder Siddiqui through Interpol and produce him before the court.

Interpol had picked up Bhola on December 2 from a hotel in Nana, a red-light district in Thai capital Bangkok. A team of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency brought him to Karachi on December 13.

Two days later, the Sindh Home Department issued a notification of forming a joint interrogation team (JIT) to grill him.

The JIT has already submitted its report to the trial. According to the team’s investigation, Bhola had admitted starting the devastating fire.

The suspect had told the JIT that Siddiqui had demanded Rs250 million in extortion and shares in the factory from the owners, but when the owners refused to comply and offered Rs10 million instead, a hit was ordered on the unit.

The court once again issued warrants for Siddiqui and adjourned the hearing until January 12. It also ordered arresting the accused through Interpol.

Initially, owner of the factory, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, and his two sons, Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, general manager Mansoor and three gatekeepers were charge-sheeted for their alleged negligence. However, a reinvestigation was ordered in March last year through a JIT after it was revealed in an earlier JIT report of suspect Rizwan Qureshi, submitted to the Sindh High Court in February 2015, that the factory was set on fire because its owners had failed to pay extortion money.

In March this year, the police in a progress report told the court that the fire was a planned terrorist activity and the JIT had recommended that a new case be registered under the anti-terrorism law and proposed Hammad Siddiqui, his alleged frontman Rahman Bhola, Hyderabad-based businessmen brothers Ali Hasan Qadri and Umer Hasan Qadri, Dr Abdul Sattar, Zubair Charya, and others as accused in it.

After a lengthy reinvestigation, police came up with a supplementary investigation report in August in which they charge-sheeted Siddiqui and Bhola and their three to four unidentified accomplices as absconding accused.

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