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September 19, 2019

Baldia factory owners likely to record testimonies via video link today


September 19, 2019

The testimonies of the Baldia factory owners are likely to be recorded today through video link from the Pakistan embassy in the United Arab Emirates, a court staffer said on Wednesday.

Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila will appear before the Pakistani mission in Dubai in the morning where arrangements have been made to record their statements about the fire incident, he added.

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

The ATC-7 had reissued the date to hear the Bhaila brothers after it was informed that the Sindh High Court had rejected the objection raised by an accused through his lawyer that they brothers should be called in the court instead.

Earlier, special public prosecutor Sheikh Sajid Mehboob, who represents the Rangers, had moved an application in the court seeking its nod to hear the factory owners via video link because they could not come to the country due to life threats.

Initially, the fire incident was deemed as an outcome of a short-circuit; however, investigations later pointed to 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.

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 and 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 MQM’s Karachi Tanzimi Committee Hammad Siddiqui, is still absconding. Prosecution maintained that he was the brains behind the extortion and 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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