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February 15, 2015

Baldia factory fire hearing adjourned due to absence of owners

Karachi

 
February 15, 2015

Karachi
The additional district and sessions judge for district West adjourned the hearing of Baldia factory fire case on Saturday on the request of owners of the Ali Enterprises, Abdul Aziz Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, who did not appear in court and requested to be exempted from the hearing.
Judge Noshaba Qazi, acting presiding officer of the trial court, allowed the pleas of owners and directed the Investigation Officer (IO) of the case to provide copies of all witness statements to the accused.
The attorneys for the accused requested the court to allow a month’s time to go through the statements of witnesses.
When asked by the court, the IO stated that there were 900 witnesses and it was not possible for him to provide all of the copies to the accused but Judge Qazi paid no heed to his excuses and asked him to ensure the provision of all documents as directed.
The trial court then decided to hear arguments on the interim charge sheet presented by the IO, suggesting that the factory owners should be tried under Section 322 (qatl-bis-sabab) of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and not under Section 302 (punishment for murder).
It was said the court will hear arguments to decide whether the accused shall be tried under murder charges or should be settled under diyat laws.
The fire which erupted on September 11, 2012, claimed 259 lives. Shortly afterwards, six suspects Mansoor Idrees, Majid Beg, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Haneef were arrested by the SITE-B police and were later sent to jail.
Three employees, watchmen Fazal Ahmed and Ali Muhammad, and security superviser Arshad Mehmood, were also investigated about the closure of all factory gates when the blaze erupted.
Meanwhile, the factory owners, Shahid Bhaila, Arshad Bhaila and Abdul Aziz (father of the two owners) were also arrested but were later released on bail.
The Sindh High Court had directed the trial court to decide the Baldia factory fire case within a year. Chief Justice

Maqbool Baqar while presiding over a division bench had disposed of an appeal filed by factory owners, seeking its directions for the trial court for expeditious disposal of the case.
The court while hearing some miscellaneous applications in a petitions filed by NGOs – Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, United Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, had called for probing and deciding the case within a year.
‘Clearing ambiguities’
The counsel of Baldia fire victims has attempted to clarify some “ambiguities” pertaining to the Joint Interrogation Team (JIT) report citing a witness who claimed that the blaze was caused by supporters of a political party.
In a press conference organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education and Research (Piler), Advocate Faisal Siddiqi said the controversy created over the JIT report had pushed the main issue of workers’ safety into the background.
Other speakers included Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education and Resarch (Piler) chief executive Karamat Ali and Asad Iqbal Butt of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
“While everyone is busy discussing the credibility of the JIT report and the alleged involvement of a political party, which was not even related to this case but another ongoing one, we still believe the owners of Ali Enterprises to be responsible for the deaths of more than 250 people and hope that the trial is concluded soon,” said Siddiqi.
Siddiqi clarified that the JIT report which was made public was not submitted by the Sindh Rangers on their own initiative.
Rather, he said, they had been ordered to do so by the Sindh High Court which had called for submission of all reports related to the Baldia factory fire case from all federal authorities and agencies.
He said that the cover letter of the JIT report explicitly stated that the it contained revelations of a Muhammad Rizwan Qureshi in a case (FIR no 61/2013) pertaining to the possession of illegal arms registered at the Artillery Maidan police station.
He said it was also important to note that the Rangers authorities had repeatedly requested the court to keep the report confidential and did not submit it in connection with the ongoing Baldia factory fire case (FIR No 343/2012) registered in Site-B police station.
Siddiqi pointed out that in the JIT report Muhammad Rizwan Qureshi made several confessions, only a paragraph in it was dedicated to the Baldia factory fire.
He said it was important to note that in his statements, Qureshi did not claim to be either responsible or to be a witness of the incident but repeated the information he had received from a fellow activist.
Piler chief Karamat Ali said till the veracity of Qureshi’s statements could be ascertained, the JIT report did not prove anything against anyone. It was said that three inquiries had been conducted into the Baldia fire tragedy, by a police committee, Federal Investigation Agency and another by a retired judge and in all of these the aspect of extortion was looked into but rejected.