The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is seeking a go-ahead to arrest at least nine key suspects belonging to a political party for their alleged involvement in the Baldia Town factory fire case.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) former Karachi Tanzeemi Committee in-charge Hammad Siddiqui is the prime suspect behind the country’s deadliest fire.
On 11 September 2012, Ali Enterprises caught fire which claimed the lives of 259 workers. The investigators had to rely on the owners’ claims to establish the cause of the fire though they now claim to possess scientific evidences as well.
“The case has become strong as besides the owners’ statements, we now also have scientific evidences,” said a JIT member while talking to The Express Tribune.
A four-member team of forensic experts had arrived in Karachi from Punjab in October 2015, to help officials ascertain the cause of the fire. The investigation team headed by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Sultan Khawaja and DIG Munir Shaikh have also recorded the statements of the garment factory owners – the Bhaila brothers Arshad and Shahid in Dubai, who have refused to return to Pakistan.
Their statements were recorded both on paper and in front of a camera at the Pakistan consulate. They had claimed that the fire was not accidental and an extortionist group was behind the incident.
“The Bhaila brothers’ statements and Punjab forensic experts’ reports have confirmed that it was not an act of God but rather an act of man,” explained a member of the JIT who did not wish to be named. “The forensic report also confirms that some chemicals were used to set the factory on fire.”
The JIT team has submitted its final report to the Sindh Home Department. “So far we have found a gang of nine members belonging to a political party including a former in-charge of MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee Hammad Siddiqui to be behind the deadly incident,” claimed an officer. “Apart from Siddiqui, another party’s workers Rehman Bhola and Rizwan Qureshi’s names will be included in the FIR, for lighting the fire and killing innocent factory workers.”
The officer further explained that the police are now waiting for the go-ahead from the home department. “After a go-ahead in the first stage, their names will be placed in the FIR, then they will be declared absconders and proclaimed offenders and finally their red-warrants will be issued as apparently all of the suspects are currently living abroad,” explained an officer.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, an inquiry team had declared the fire to be accidental.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2016.