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July 7, 2020

Baldia reality

Editorial

 
July 7, 2020

A Joint Investigation Team report has found that the Baldia Town factory fire of September 2012 was not an accident or an act of murder but a case of ‘planned terrorism’. The JIT, comprising officials from top security agencies including the CIA, police, Rangers and the FIA, has said in its 27-page report that the incident showed police connivance in protecting those responsible and that this is a pattern seen over and over again in the country. The report has named two members of the MQM as being responsible for beginning the inferno which killed 260 workers at the factory and injured others after factory workers refused to pay an amount of Rs200 million demanded as extortion or ‘bhatta’.

The JIT report has said that the previous FIR filed in the case should be scrapped and a new one lodged by the state under sections of the PPC and the Anti-Terrorism Act. The report has also demanded that members of the party it has found primarily responsible for the incident should be extradited and brought home if they are in other countries and placed on the ECL if they are still in Pakistan. It has also sought compensation for the owners of the factory who were initially blamed by the police for setting the building on fire. The report notes that the police appeared to be protecting those truly responsible for the mass killing of innocent people and that to ensure these persons are brought to justice, it is important to provide protection to witnesses of the incident. The failure to prove cases before courts has been a reason for culprits of major crimes getting away over and over again in the past. Witnesses are often too afraid to testify because of possible consequences in the absence of protection.

What is most significant about the JIT report is its finding that many persons tried to influence the process of investigation in order to benefit specific people. This is disturbing. The fire was an act of extreme violence and inhumanity against persons in no way involved in the matter. It was one of the most heinous tragedies to happen in Pakistan, or anywhere else for that matter. The ‘bhatta’ rackets in Karachi are well known and have been the bane of the business community for years. We can only hope that the JIT report will help bring this unholy business to an end and eradicate the political elements behind it. It should also lead to an investigation into the failure of the police to avoid pressure and to crumble under it by submitting a report which suited particular persons. The police investigation model that we have been following needs a thorough review; just blaming the police is not going to work, unless the government allocates appropriate amounts for police training, labs and forensic expertise development. The power of the mafias that run Karachi is well known. We hope this report can lead to action against those responsible for the brutal act of mass murder and perhaps dissuade others from carrying out similar crimes in the future. Only in this can there be hope for Karachi and its people.