KARACHI: Some witnesses in Baldia factory fire case have sought security under the Witness Protection Act while others have recorded their confessional statements to the team reinvestigating the case, revealed the progress report submitted to a sessions court on Tuesday.
The deadly fire at Ali Enterprises garment factory, located in Baldia Town, claimed 260 lives on September 11, 2012. The incident raised questions on workplace safety in factories and security in the financial hub of the country, yet the facts behind this deadly industrial disaster have yet to be ascertained.
Ten months on, a high-level police team was formed to re-investigate the case courtesy of a stark revelation made by an under-trial prisoner but it has yet to complete the task.
On Tuesday, the investigators provided a progress report, which mentioned that Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) local leaders and workers, Hammad Siddiqui, Farooq Saleem, Abdul Rehman alias Bhola, Rizwan Qureshi and Zubair, who the party now disowns, have fled the country. The investigators were in touch with the authorities for their repatriation.
MQM’s workers were involved in the probe after one of its alleged workers, Qureshi, confessed to the Rangers that the incident was a planned act of arson over unpaid extortion. At this stage, eight suspects including three factory owners, one manager and four gatekeepers have been charged with unintentional murder and injuries.
According to some witnesses who worked at the ill-fated factory and fortunately survived, there were no adequate safety arrangements on the premises. They claimed that the casualties rose because there was no fire exit in the factory and the only way used for entry and exit was engulfed in flames.
There are around 1,000 witnesses named in the charge sheet, said the investigators. Some of them have already recorded their confessions, while others have sought security under the Witness Protection Act.
The act which was passed by the Sindh Assembly in September 2013, guarantees protection to witnesses ‘to enable them to give evidence in criminal proceedings’.
The District West additional sessions judge, Maqsood Memon, adjourned the hearing of the case till February 13 after the investigator pledged that the final report will be submitted soon.
The judge also ordered that witnesses should be given protection as per the law and sought the statements of the factory owners at the next hearing.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2016.