Baldia factory fire: Rehman Bhola confesses involvement before police

SP Akhtar Farooq says suspect confessed that he was ground operator of extortion, arson saga


Zubair Ashraf December 19, 2016
Two hundred and sixty people were killed in the fire at Ali Enterprises garments factory in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012. The incident earlier deemed an accident, in which casualties multiplied due to the lack of safety measures, was recently termed an act of arson over non-payment of extortion. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Abdul Rehman alias Bhola, the former Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) sector incharge implicated in the Baldia factory fire case for his alleged role as an extortionist and planner of the arson attack, has reportedly confessed about his involvement before the police.

Rehman has already confessed before the police about being involved as a ground operator in the whole extortion and arson saga, case investigations head SP Akhtar Farooq told The Express Tribune. "He did confess that [Hammad] Siddiqui through him had demanded an extortion of Rs250 million from the factory owners," he said. Farooq said that the demand was later reduced to Rs200 million over demand of a share in the profit of the factory. The owners refused to pay the amount, on which the extortionist set the factory on fire, he added, saying that the role of others who later surfaced in the case as facilitators in post-incident offences is also being investigated.

Baldia factory fire: Key suspect brought back to Karachi from Bangkok

SP Farooq spoke to The Express Tribune on the phone after the hearing of the Baldia factory case. An anti-terrorism court (ATC) remanded on Monday Rehman for another 10 days for recording of his statement before a judicial magistrate and interrogation in other pending cases against him.

Two-hundred-and-sixty people were killed in the fire at Ali Enterprises garments factory in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012. The incident earlier deemed as an accident, in which casualties multiplied due to the lack of safety measures, was recently termed an arson attack over non-payment of extortion. Rehman was arrested recently from Thailand through the Interpol. He was brought back to the country by the Federal Investigation Agency and later handed over to the police for further legal proceedings. It was his second appearance in the court since then.

Case proceedings

As the hearing of the case resumed after a gap of more than two weeks, the suspect was presented before the judge and the investigation officer sought his custody until December 28 for completing the interrogation process.

The judge politely asked the suspect, who was standing with his head down, to look up and tell the court his name. He identified himself as Abdul Rehman. The judge then asked what sobriquet he was referred to with. He replied, "Bhola."

Afterwards, the judge got busy with the investigation officer, Inspector Raja Jahangir, about the investigation done so far with the recently arrested suspect and about the three others absconding.

Among the 12 suspects nominated in the re-registered case, seven, including manager Muhammad Mansoor, gatekeepers Fazal Muhammad, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Muhammad, another employee of the factory, Shahrukh and two Hyderabad-based businessmen Ali Hasan Qadri and Umer Hasan Qadri are on bail.

Interpol nets key suspect in deadly Baldia factory fire

Three, including a former MQM top organisational man, Hammad Siddiqui, a Hyderabad-based man and woman duo, Dr Abdul Sattar and Iqbal Adeeb Khanum, are absconding. Rehman and Muhammad Zubair alias Charya are in custody.

Referring to the remand report submitted in the court, Jahangir said that the suspect was interrogated before a joint investigation team and his statements were recorded. He was also taken to the burnt site of the factory and was asked to narrate a re-enactment of the scene, added the officer.

About Siddiqui, the officer said that he was out of the country and efforts were being made to locate and apprehend him with the help of Interpol. The court issued orders for issuance of red warrants for the absconding suspect again.

Other suspects directly or indirectly associated with the case were also present in the court either by themselves or through their lawyers. Disposing of a matter moved by Zubair, the court rejected his bail plea.

Owners become 'victims'

Meanwhile, in the report submitted to the court, the police have mentioned 12 suspects only while excluding the factory owners, Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad and Shahid. "They have been ruled out as suspects," said SP Farooq. "They are victims in fact. They were demanded extortion and on refusal were inflicted a loss."

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2016.

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