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Police told to arrest former Korangi administrator and DC in Mehran Town fire case

By Zubair Ashraf
October 01, 2021
Police told to arrest former Korangi administrator and DC in Mehran Town fire case

A city court has ordered the police to arrest former deputy commissioner and administrator of District Korangi and six others, including officials of the K-Electric (KE), Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) and fire brigade, in connection with the Mehran Town factory fire.

Sixteen workers were killed in a fire at the BM Luggage Industry located in the Mehran Town area of District Korangi on August 27. Of the victims, three were brothers; more than half were under the age of 30; the youngest was 18 years old and the eldest was just 41.

The judicial magistrate XXX - East, Sher Muhammad Kolachi, implicated then District Korangi deputy commissioner and administrator, KE general manager, KE head of new connections, Karachi Development Authority Executive Engineer Zahid Hussain, Civil Defence Director Safdar Ali Bhugio, Sepa Deputy Director Kamran Khan and Fire Brigade Korangi Incharge Ishtiaq Ahmed in the case and ordered their arrest.

In his order, the magistrate observed that the investigation officer of the case had “deliberately and mala fidely” omitted the name of these persons from the charge sheet although sufficient evidence was prima facie available against them suggesting that they had failed to

perform their duties which resulted in a devastating incident.

In the charge sheet, a copy of which is available with The News, the IO had implicated a total of 10 suspects, including owner of the building Faisal Tariq, his tenant and owner of the factory Ali Mehta, manager Imran Zaidi, gatekeeper Syed Zarin, supervisors Rehan and Zafar, labour department’s officer Muhammad Ali, Sindh Building Control Authority Deputy Director Korangi Abdul Sami, KDA Deputy Director - Land Irfan Hussain and Civil Defence Deputy Controller Shahabuddin.

However, the judge removed the name of labour officer Ali from the report observing that his was the only department which had taken some measures to stop the illegal factory from running. Referring to a report from the department, the judge said that just two weeks before the incident, labour officials had inspected the factory, issued a show-cause notice to its management and subsequently filed a complaint against them in a labour court which was pending for disposal.

The judge said that during the course of investigation, it transpired that the property was residential but was being illegally used for commercial and industrial purposes and the concerned land owning, building control, civil defence and environment authorities did not take any action against it.

The magistrate further observed that KE had also provided commercial and industrial power connections to the factory. He added that the perusal of the police file revealed that police officials had tried to let off certain people responsible for the incident.

He said that in the light of the evidence placed before the court, he was taking cognisance of the offence against the left-out eight persons and implicating them in the case. He issued non-bailable warrants against the absconders, which include all of the aforementioned government and power utility officials, and ordered the investigation officer (IO) to present them in the court on October 7. He directed the IO to file a supplementary charge sheet against the newly implicated suspects and collect further evidence against them by the next hearing.

According to the witnesses mentioned in the charge sheet, the workers were trapped on the upper floor of the factory because of the fire and they could not escape because no emergency exit was available to them and the gate to the rooftop was locked. They said that the management employees had locked the main gate and they were also not opening it despite repeated pleas and requests from the crowd which had converged there. They added that factory employees fled the scene and the bodies were taken out of the building with the help of a snorkel.