KARACHI: "Most of the victims [of Baldia factory fire] were the sole bread earners of their families. Do our rulers ever ponder on how their dependents are living now," remarked a roadside sunglasses vendor as he watched the affected families staging a protest at Karachi Press Club on Thursday afternoon.
"Not to mention the justice, they [the victim's] should at least be given compensation to rebuild their lives," he said and walked away, even before his name could be asked, towards a motorcyclist on the other end of the road. His eyes were still on the protesters, which included children as well as old people.
Over 250 workers perished inside the locked premises of Ali Enterprises, in Baldia on September 11, 2012. The protesters shouted, 'Zalimo Jawab Do, Khoon Ka Hissab Do' [Tyrants, answer us, justify the bloodshed] as they walked in protest from Regal Chowk to Karachi Press Club.
The rally was held as part of a global campaign to seek justice for victims of the fire. Similar to Karachi, other demonstrations were also held in India, Bangladesh and in some European countries to express solidarity with the victims.
"We want justice," said an elderly woman, named Bilquis, who lost her young son in the fire. "Is being poor such a severe sin that our voices are not paid need?" she questioned, as she marched alongside other protesters.
"It has been three years, seven months and three days, to be exact, yet the [factory fire] case has not been taken up in court properly nor have we been paid the pledged amount," said Abid, whose brother was killed in the fire.
Addressing the demonstration, the National Trade Union Federation's president Rafiq Baloch said that the labourers were left to live a life of misery and it seems that the state does not care about them. "A number of promises were made by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the time of the incident, when he was not in power, but they have yet to materialise."
Baloch further added that the rulers should know that they will not be spared by the people for their false promises. "Their corruption has been unveiled and now they are running to London to save themselves. The protest demonstrations will continue to take place until the justice is done to the factory fire victims."
A senior leader of the victims' association, Saeeda Khatoon, whose only son perished in the fire, said that their demands were the same since day one. "We want to see the responsible held accountable and implementation of the safety measures in factories so that no such incident happens again."
The protesters also demanded that the German company, KiK, which was the major buyer of the ill-fated factory's products, should fulfil its promise and pay the compensation amount to the victims' families. A case has also been filed in Dortmund court against the company.
On the occasion, labour rights organisations, including International Labor Rights Forum in Washington, Health Network of India in New Delhi, IndustriALL Golbal Union in Geneva, sent in their messages to the victims' families for their movement. These organisations also sent memorandums to German authorities to help resolve the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2016.
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