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February 21, 2015

Possible outcome of fresh Baldia fire probe

National

February 21, 2015

Fresh investigation into 2012 Baldia factory fire may get more hype in the media and in the political circles with the passage of time, but the chances of the families of 258 victims getting justice look bleak.
It is premature to say what direction the new probe will take, but certainly we may see new accused, new evidences, new witnesses and new trial, which may take months or even years.At the very outset, the new case direction must have brought a sigh of relief to the factory management, including its owner, his son, manager and other staff, who were cited as the accused in the case.
So, the immediate beneficiaries are not the workers but the factory owners. It is yet to be seen if they will remain accused in the fresh probe or become witness. What will now be the status of the case pending with the Karachi sessions court? Will the state withdraw its case against the accused, who are already on bail?
What about the list of 950 prosecution witnesses submitted to the court? Will there be a fresh FIR of the case? What about the evidences already on court record like forensic or chemical, which would be crucial for the fresh trial?
So, it would be interesting to watch what position the government will take in the already pending case. It can even delay the case of compensation filed by the victims’ families with the Sindh High Court.
The Sindh Home Department Thursday notified a new probe team comprising police, Rangers and FIA officials. It will be headed by the Additional IGP Khadim Hussain. DIG Mushtaq Shah has been named as one of its members, while the FIA and the Rangers have yet to nominate their members. The name of Director FIA and former Karachi police chief Shahid Hayat is under consideration, but he has reservations about the Sindh government.
Prior to the start of the probe, at least five people including the former head of MQM, Tanzeemi Committee Hammad Siddiqui and Rizwan Qureshi have been placed on the Exit Control List

(ECL).
There is no doubt that if the statement of the accused Rizwan Qureshi recorded with the JIT proved true in the court, the case may take a dramatic turn, but not yet. But what if his claim proved untrue? Who will take the blame for destroying the first case against the owners and others?
So, the fresh probe will start from Rizwan Qureshi himself. Now will he be included in the probe as the witness or the accused. Secondly, if the issue is linked with extortion, the statement of the owner would be most crucial in this case, as the new probe revolves around extortion.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has categorically denied its involvement in the case and said time will prove its innocence, but the problem with the MQM is the kind of perception which has already been created after the JIT. Its political rivals are using it against them.
The MQM has already delayed its joining the government, though there are some other issues as well. It’s almost two weeks since the MQM decided to join the Sindh government and sign a joint declaration.
The delay, which is not from the Sindh government or the PPP side, has raised many questions. Are they waiting for the outcome of the Senate elections or there are differences within MQM about joining the government?
The MQM’s legal team, headed by Senator Farogh Nasim, is looking into the legal aspects of the case keeping in mind the possibility that some of its workers might be arrested. Therefore, it’s very important that this case should be dealt with apolitically if we really want that “justice” be done in this case.
Unfortunately, the political parties have politicized the issue even much before the starting of a fresh probe, disturbing the labor leader Karamat Ali as he is fighting the case of victims compensation in the high court.
“I am not interested in knowing who did it. My only concern is that all the families of victims get justice and a better way of life,” he said.
Some parties are trying to gain political mileage out of this case because of their old political rivalries with the MQM, but many cases of heinous crimes were in the past destroyed because of political gangs, particularly in Karachi.
The MQM and JI are old political rivals; both have been demanding ban on each other since long for different reasons. The Jamaat and MQM both want to retain their position in the port city of Karachi.
This case has become political from the day the JIT report was leaked after it was submitted to the Sindh High Court. It was not presented in the media as the case against Rizwan Qureshi for his other alleged criminal activities, but on his disclosure in the last paragraph about his information linked to Baldia factory.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has termed Baldia factory fire tragedy “grave” and during his meeting in Karachi he issued directives for fresh investigation while addressing the “apex committee.”
There has not been any major crackdown in Karachi after the visit of PM Nawaz Sharif and the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif except for few encounters and some arrests except the follow up of Baldia factory.
Altaf Hussain’s statement about the murder of MQM worker Danish Kaleem in Organi Town must be taken seriously. He said 17 MQM workers had been killed only in this area, which had become a breeding ground for groups like al-Qaeda, Taliban and Daish.
Karachi’s targeted operation should not lose its direction because of fresh probe in Baldia factory fire case. The Sindh police chief has claimed that over 800 criminals, including 200 alleged terrorists linked with al-Qaeda and Taliban had been killed in the last six months.
But, if what Altaf Hussain says is based on facts it’s not difficult to assess the ground situation despite major successes claimed by the police chief. The need of the hour is that the operation should remain “focused”, as despite success in the operation one major incident can bring the matter back to the square one.The writer is the senior analyst, columnist of GEO, The News and Jang.

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