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August 4, 2019

ATC to record testimonies of Baldia factory owners via video link on Aug 21

Karachi

August 4, 2019

An anti-terrorism court on Saturday fixed August 21 to record the testimonies of the Baldia factory owners through videoconferencing from Dubai.

The ATC-VII at a previous hearing had approved the prosecution’s request to hear the owners of Ali Enterprises, brothers Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila, via video-link since they could not come to the country.

Around 260 people were killed and several injured in a fire at Ali Enterprises garments factory in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012. Initially, the incident was deemed as the outcome of a short circuit but later it transpired to be an act of arson.

At the outset of the hearing, the judge was informed that the arrangements to record the statements at the Pakistani consulate in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, had been done and the court may issue a date to conduct the proceedings.

According to Rangers special public prosecutor Sajid Mehbood Sheikh, who moved the application, the owners of the factory could not come to the court for the purpose since they faced life threats. The court has allowed the plea after seeking comments from other parties.

Around 10 suspects -- then MQM’s industries and commerce minister Rauf Siddiqui, local office-bearer Abdul Rehman alias Bhola, Zubair alias Charya, Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood, Ali Muhammad, Umar Hasan Qadri, Abdul Sattar Khan and Iqbal Adeeb Khanum -- have been charged with the offence.

The factory owners were discharged from the case after a joint investigation team’s report identified as victims rather than suspects. According to it, the factory was set on fire after the owners refused to pay extortion to people associated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

One key suspect, the then incharge of MQM’s Karachi Tanzimi Committee Hammad Siddiqui, is still absconding. Prosecution maintained that Siddiqui ordered the arson because he was enraged by the owners’ refusal to pay the demanded sum.

The FIR was registered under sections 302 (premeditated murder), 324 (attempting to murder), 337 (shajjah), 384 (punishment for extortion), 385 (putting person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion), 386 (extortion by putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage to amount of one hundred rupees), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house), 34 (common intention), 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act at the SITE-B police station.

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