Rejecting initial reports which suggested the factory fire in Karachi erupted following a boiler blast, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Sunday terrorism could not be ruled out as a cause of the inferno which claimed 259 lives.
“The (initial) reports are categorically wrong; both the boiler and the generator are intact. An element of sabotage cannot be ruled out,” Malik told journalists during a tour of the factory.
Placing the blame completely on the owners of Ali Enterprises, Malik said criminal negligence was the cause of the fire, but the involvement of terrorists could also be a possibility. Reports earlier revealed there was not a single fire exit, with only one way to leave the building.
Malik added the investigators will look into each and every aspect of the disaster, including the role of government departments. He was, however, careful not to single any one out.
Malik said the insurance claims and business deals of the factory owners are also being scrutinised to ensure they are genuine.
He maintained rescue teams will be interrogated along with the surviving staff of the factory to deduce if the fire was an inside job. “The CCTV footage from the factory has revealed people that may be involved in the fire.”
Investigations have so far revealed excessive load caused the electric wiring to melt. Malik said a transformer had also been brought in from outside the factory and placed inside the premises, which was not only illegal but also extremely dangerous.
According to the interior minister, the fire started on the first floor which had wooden flooring and quickly spread to other parts of the factory. He said there was so much smoke that people trapped on the ground floor had nowhere to go.
DIG Crime Investigation Agency Manzoor Mughal concurred the wiring was exposed which was a major reason for the disaster. He said Karachi Electric Supply Company officials would be questioned during investigations.
“We will not harass anyone, but I can assure you no one is going to be spared from the due processes of law. I am not just looking it as a crime or sabotage, but also as an act of terrorism.”
He added the factory had a mezzanine floor, which was illegal.
Mughal said the main entry and exit point had been sealed on the orders of the factory’s general manager Mansoor Ahmed, who is being pursued by the police but has not been nabbed as yet.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2012.