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August 22, 2019

Baldia factory owners’ testimony adjourned till Aug 27

Karachi

August 22, 2019

An anti-terrorism court on Wednesday adjourned the recording of the testimonies of Baldia factory owners for a week after their lawyer said that his clients were not ready to give a statement since they misunderstood the previous order.

On the previous hearing, the ATC-7 judge had issued directions to Arshad Bhaila and his brother Shahid Bhaila to appear at the Pakistan embassy in Dubai on August 21 and record their statements regarding the fire incident at Ali Enterprises through video-link.

Two-hundred-and-sixty people were killed and dozens injured as a fire ravaged through the Ali Enterprises garments factory, owned by Bhaila brothers in Baldia Town, on September 11, 2012. Seventeen of the dead bodies still await identification.

Initially, the fire incident was deemed as an outcome of a short circuit; however, investigations later found it was an arson attack. It has been maintained that the people from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had demanded extortion money from the Bhailas and on their refusal the factory was set on fire.

The court is set to hear the Bhaila brothers on August 27. They currently reside in the United Arab Emirates as they face life threats in the country. The arrangements for video-conferencing have already been made at the Pakistan embassy.

Ten suspects currently face the trial, including then MQM’s industries and commerce minister Rauf Siddiqui, local office-bearers Abdul Rehman alias Bhola, Zubair alias Charya, factory employees Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood, Ali Muhammad and Hyderabad-based businesspersons Umar Hasan Qadri, Ali Hasan Qadri and Iqbal Adeeb Khanum. Only Abdul Rehman alias Bhola and Zubair alias Charya are in judicial custody while the rest have secured bail.

One key suspect, the then incharge of the MQM’s Karachi Tanzimi Committee, Hammad Siddiqui, is still absconding. The prosecution maintained that he was the brains behind the extortion and the arson act.

The case is 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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