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September 23, 2020

Two awarded death penalty for 2012 Baldia factory inferno

Top Story

 
September 23, 2020

Ag Agencies

KARACHI: Eight years after more than 260 workers were burned to death in a garments factory in an industrial area of Karachi, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) sentenced two men to death and acquitted a third in the Baldia factory fire case on Tuesday.

The court found Abdul Rahman alias ‘Bhola’ and Zubair alias ‘Charya’, who were at the time affiliated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), guilty of the arson, and acquitted former provincial minister Rauf Siddiqui and three others for lack of evidence.

Four others were handed life sentences for collusion in the crime. Another key suspect Hammad Siddiqui, the mastermind of the crime, is still at large.

On September 11, 2012, 264 workers of the multi-storey Ali Enterprises garments factory died after their building was barricaded and set alight after the owners failed to pay extortion money to the tune of 250 million rupees. Abdul Rahman Bhola and Zubair Charya had confessed that they, on the instructions of Hammad Siddiqui, set fire to the factory.

Following the verdict, a statement was issued by MQM-Pakistan’s Faisal Subzwari saying that Rauf Siddiqui’s acquittal “is proof of the fact that MQM had no association with the case”. He said the party sympathises with the heirs of the victims who had to wait eight years for the verdict to be announced.

“We hope that the courts ensure the speedy delivery of justice to all the victims of the tragedy. We would also like to make clear that supporting any anti-social, lawbreaking individuals was never a policy of the MQM-P and never will be,” Subzwari added.

Sindh minister Saeed Ghani responded to Subzwari, asking him to disclose which political party Hammad Siddiqui, Bhola and Charya were affiliated with, before adding that Rauf Siddiqui’s name was not included among those who set the fire.

Earlier this month, the special public prosecutor had said a decision had been reserved after arguments from various parties were completed, with the case pending in various courts for almost eight years, Geo News reported. According to the prosecution, the factory was set on fire by men affiliated with the MQM because the factory owners had refused to give in to the party’s demands for extortion money.

Arshad Bhaila, one of the owners of the factory, had testified in court that MQM men had asked him to pay Rs250 million or a share of 50 per cent in the factory’s profits. He said he had been willing to pay Rs10 million.

Throughout the hearings, the statements of some 400 witnesses were recorded, with the factory owners presenting theirs via video link from Dubai.

Former MQM sector in-charges Abdul Rahman ‘Bhola’, and Zubair ‘Charya’, were eventually arrested in the case. Bhola was arrested in December 2016 from Bangkok with the help of Interpol. He had confessed to the crime before a judicial magistrate.