KARACHI: A district and sessions court granted on Tuesday interim bail to a Hyderabad-based businessman, Ali Hasan Qadri, one of the accused in the joint investigation team's (JIT) report on the Baldia factory fire incident.
Ali, said to be a close associate of Pak Sarzameen Party's imprisoned leader Anis Kaimkhani, is nominated as a middle-man in the reported money transaction between the Baldia factory owners - Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad and Shahid - and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
Two-hundred-and-sixty people were burnt to death in the fire at Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012. The incident was initially deemed an accident. However, the recent and third investigation report called it an arson attack and revealed the extortion factor involved in it.
According to the latest JIT report, the fire was caused by miscreants belonging to MQM over non-payment of extortion money, said to be around Rs200million, by the Bhaila family. It is said that some leaders of the party also kept threatening the factory owners after the fire and a deal of Rs59.8 million was struck between them to settle the matter.
Ali and his brother Umar Qadri are referred as the middle-men who allegedly brokered the deal between the Bhaila family and the MQM. They are said to be close to Kaimkhani, who at the time was MQM's deputy convener.
Ali's bail application was filed with the District West's sessions court in July this year. Meanwhile, the bail remained pending as the plaintiff did not show up for a follow-up and the court had put it aside on a previous hearing. However, the plaintiff turned up again and pleaded to make it active. On Tuesday, West's additional district and sessions judge-V heard arguments on the plea and after listening to the defence and prosecution approved the interim bail till August 20 against a surety of Rs100,000.
The proposed suspect was granted bail for four days only and on the next hearing the matter will be argued again over the issue if it could be held for long or not, said Sajid Mehmoob Sheikh, the special public prosecutor tasked the case, while talking to The Express Tribune.
More than 10 people have been nominated in the recent investigation report, including former MQM Karachi Tanzeemi Committee chief Hammad Siddiqui, former MQM Baldia Town sector in-charge Rehman alias Bhola as the alleged extortionists, factory employee Zubair alias Charya and four unidentified persons as the alleged executors of the arson, the Qadri brothers as the alleged brokers of the deal between the party, Kaimkhani's aides Dr Abdul Sattar whose bank account was deposited with the deal money and Iqbal Adeeb Khanum, who benefitted with the money as a bungalow was purchased in her name. Despite Kaimkhani's alleged role mentioned in the report, his name has not been brought up as a proposed accused.
The recent development in the case, as per the investigating authorities' statement, reads that a supplementary charge sheet inclusive of the Anti-Terrorism Act's clause seven is going to be submitted in a court against the accused.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2016.