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September 17, 2019

Baldia factory owners to record testimonies via video link on Sept 19


September 17, 2019

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Monday fixed September 19 to record the testimonies of the owners of the Ali Enterprises, a garments factory in Baldia Town that was gutted by a blaze seven years ago in which over 200 people were killed, through video link from the Pakistani embassy in Dubai.

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

The ATC-VII fixed the date to hear the Ali Enterprises owners, Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila, through video conferencing after it was informed that the Sindh High Court had rejected the objection raised by an accused through his lawyer against recording the owners’ testimonies through video link.

Initially, the fire incident was deemed as an outcome of a short circuit, however, investigations later revealed that it was an arson. It has been maintained that some people affiliated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had demanded extortion money from the Bhailas and on their refusal, the factory was set on fire. The Bhailas have been relieved from the case since then.

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

Only Rehman and Zubair are in judicial custody in jail while the rest have secured bail. One key suspect, then incharge of MQM’s Karachi Tanzimi Committee Hammad Siddiqui, is still absconding. The prosecution has maintained that he was the brains behind the extortion and arson act.

The case is registered under the 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) and 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with the Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act at the SITE-B police station.

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