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SHC seeks Baldia factory fire probe reports

Court directs prosecutor to submit investigation reports of Baldia fire incident within a week

By Jamal Khurshid
January 14, 2015
The Sindh High Court directed the additional prosecutor general on Tuesday to submit within a week reports of the investigation conducted into the massive fire at a factory in Baldia Town in 2012.
The orders came on an application filed by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research seeking the transfer of the case’s investigation officer and an expeditious trial. Piler and others had filed a petition for the formation of a judicial commission that would fix the responsibility on those responsible of the tragedy at the Ali Enterprise factory wherein 289 people had lost their lives. The petitioners also want the commission to suggest the amount of compensation money for the heirs of the victims.
Their counsel, Faisal Siddiqui, submitted in the application that the investigation officer, Jehanzaib Khan, was conducting himself impartially and delaying the proceedings of the trial.
He alleged that the officer was benefiting the accused and despite a lapse of two years had not even framed charges against them.
He asked the court to direct the home department and the IGP to appoint a senior police officer to investigate the case and direct the trial court to conclude the proceeding within six months.
Additional prosecutor general Muntazir Mehdi submitted that in pursuance of court directives, DIG Sultan Khawaja was presently supervising as to how the investigation officer was the probing the cases.
He submitted that investigation reports had been compiled and would be submitted within a week.
An SHC division bench headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar granted the law officer time to submit the reports.
The court also directed then heads of the Inter-Service Intelligence, the Military Intelligence, the Intelligence Bureau, the Federal Investigation Agency and Rangers to submit their investigation reports, if any, conducted in connection with the Baldia factory fire.
The nazir of the court submitted a report on the payment of compensation money, mentioning that 400 of the 1,200 heirs of the victims had been delivered cheques while rest of the families would receive them within 15 days.
The assistant director of the Employees Old-Age Benefit Institution submitted the details about the payment of victims’ pensions to the heirs.
The hearing of the case was adjourned till February 6.

Safety measures
In an identical matter, the court gave three weeks’ time to the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, the labour department, the health secretary, the industries ministry and others to submit reports on the fire safety measures taken at public and private buildings.
The petitioner, Raah-e-Raast Trust chairman Agha Syed Attaullah Shah, had submitted that the civic agencies were guilty of criminal negligence for not ensuring fire safety steps at the city’s buildings.
He asked the court to direct the civic agencies to furnish a list of buildings including factories, education institutions, multi-storied residential and commercial buildings where emergency exits, fire alarms etc were unavailable.
The court observed that despite repeated directives, no comments had been filed by the respondents in the petition. The court granted three weeks’ time to provincial and federal law officers to file the comments observing that in case of non-compliance the chief secretary; the labour, environment protection agency and industries secretaries; and the chief controller of the Sindh Building Control Authority would have to appear in person with their written explanations over the non-compliance of orders.