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Karachi

ZA
Zubair Ashraf
December 8, 2017

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Baldia factory fire was negligence, not terrorism: Kamal

Baldia factory fire was negligence, not terrorism: Kamal

Upholding a nearly abandoned debate, former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal said on Thursday that the Baldia factory inferno was not an act of terrorism but a case of sheer negligence towards workers’ safety on the part of the unit’s owners.

Addressing the media, Pak Sarzameen Party Chairman Kamal asked why the factory owners, Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad and Shahid Bhaila, were out of the country and not appearing in courts to testify.

Around 260 people were killed and three to four dozen others were injured after a fire broke out at the Ali Enterprises garments factory in Baldia Town’s industrial neighbourhood on September 11, 2012.

For three straight years, the prosecution, on the basis of the findings of a judicial commission, the joint investigation team’s (JIT) report and police investigations, maintained that the fire was caused due to a short circuit and the casualties in such large numbers occurred because there were inadequate safety measures at the factory.

Then, in February 2015, a JIT report regarding suspected hitman Rizwan Qureshi, said to be affiliated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, surfaced in which he was quoted as saying that the factory was set on fire by his party’s men over the factory owners’ refusal to pay them extortion money. The report changed the trajectory of the case and another investigation was launched, which in the light of Qureshi’s and others’ claims suggested a retrial under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The case is pending before the Anti-Terrorism Court-II, and according to recent reports, prime accused Hammad Siddiqui was extradited to the country from Dubai with the help of the Interpol.

The case against the major and long-time purchaser of products made at the ill-fated factory, KiK Textilien und Non-Food GmbH in Germany, and the firm that issued dubious social auditing certificates, RINA in Italy, was affected after the claims of terrorism.

“Even if it was an act of terrorism, the case of occupational health and safety cannot be ruled out,” National Trade Union Federation Deputy General Secretary Nasir Mansoor told The News. “Unfortunately, the state of workers has not changed at all despite witnessing such a tragic incident.” It is up to the prosecution and investigators to establish the case in court, and whosoever was behind this fire shall be held accountable, Mansoor added.

“Those named in the JIT, the factory owners and others shall be tried so that courts can decide the case. Delaying tactics will create more complexities.” Meanwhile, the regional court of Dortmund, Germany, which is hearing the litigation moved on behalf of the victims against KiK, has sought final and independent legal opinion from UK-based legal expert Ken Oliphant to comment if the case constitutes to be tried in a German court when the offence has occurred in a foreign country. The fate of the case depends on the opinion from Oliphant and is likely to be submitted by mid-2018.

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