Friday June 14, 2024

New joint investigation team formed to probe Baldia factory fire

Seven-member team led by DIG RRF Aftab Ahmed Pathan will submit its findings within 30 days

By M Waqar Bhatti
March 17, 2015
The Sindh home department on Monday constituted a new Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate the Baldia fire tragedy which claimed the lives of more than 267 persons on September 11, 2011.
The new seven-member JIT has been ordered by the home department to submit its findings within the next 30 days.
The investigation team will be headed by DIG Sindh Rapid Response Force (RRF) Dr Aftab Ahmed Pathan.
Its members will include senior officials of the police, Rangers, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB).
Earlier this year, the Baldia factory carnage came into the limelight once again when Sindh Rangers presented the JIT report of a criminal Rizwan Qureshi before the Sindh High Court.
In the report, Qureshi had claimed that the fire was an act of arson by the activists of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) after they failed to receive extortion money from the owners of Ali Enterprises.
Subsequently, a few days ago Sindh Rangers issued another investigation report of a suspected target killer picked up from the MQM headquarters last week, Umair Siddiqui.
In the report, according to the Rangers, Siddiqui too has revealed that MQM’s Baldia sector incharge, Rehman Bhola, had torched the factory with his accomplices.
Following these alarming disclosures by Rizwan Qureshi and Umair Siddiqui, the FIA had put the names of detained suspects and Hammad Siddiqui and Rehman Bhola, along with several others, in the Exit Control List even though quite a few of them are believed to have left the country already.
Meanwhile, the federal interior ministry’s National Crisis Management Cell then directed the Sindh home department to reconstitute the JIT, under the supervision of a senior and professional police official, since the position of earlier team led by Additional IGP Crime Sindh Khadim Hussain Bhatti had become debatable.
Officials in the Sindh home department confirmed that the command of new JIT has been handed over to Dr Aftab Pathan, who is considered to be a professional and honest police officer, who even at times refused orders from his superiors and political bosses.
The second police official to have been appointed as a member of the JIT is DIG East Munir Shaikh who too enjoys a good reputation, even among his rivals.
Other members of the team are Col. Sajad Bashir of Sindh Rangers, Additional Director FIA Altaf Hussain, whom the home department officials described as professional and dedicated officers.
Meanwhile, letters have been written to the ISI, MI and IB for nomination of officers to become a part of the JIT as soon as possible, so the team may be completed and begin working,.
The terms and references for the JIT defined by the authorities included reinvestigation of the Baldia factory fire in light of earlier JIT under FIR No 61/2013 lodged at the Artillery Maidan police station under Section 23A(1) of the Sindh Arms Act.
The JIT may co-opt any officer, not less than of the rank of BPS-18, as investigation officer of the case while it can also approach any agency during the process of reinvestigation for any information or collection of evidence.