KARACHI: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) granted on Thursday more time to the police to submit a supplementary charge sheet in the Baldia factory fire case following the arrest and interrogation of a key suspect, Abdul Rehman alias Bhola.
The ATC-II directed the police to submit the charge sheet against the suspect by January 12, as the investigation officer contended that he needed more time to finalise the prosecution document.
Rehman, a former incharge of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Baldia sector, was arrested earlier this month in Bangkok by Interpol and the Thai police’s Crime Suppression Division, after his red warrants were issued by the Pakistani authorities on court orders.
He was later brought back to the country by the Federal Investigation Agency and handed over to police for further legal proceedings against him.
In the progress report submitted to the ATC, the investigation officer said that the suspect had ‘voluntarily’ confessed to the crime before a District West judicial magistrate.
According to the confessional statement, he admitted that the factory was set on fire over non-payment of extortion to his party’s high command by factory owners Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad and Shahid.
Two-hundred-and-sixty people were burnt to death and dozens were wounded as the fire engulfed the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012.
The suspect maintained that Hammad Siddiqui, the then chief of MQM’s Karachi Tanzimi Committee (KTC) which supervised all the party’s sectors in the city, had demanded Rs250million in extortion from the Bhailas through him.
The factory owners declined and instead offered Rs10million, which infuriated Siddiqui, he said, adding that the KTC chief then ordered him to set the factory on fire.
He added that after the fire, he and his fellow party workers came to the site and installed a camp outside it for four days on the pretext of providing relief to the victims.
This arson factor surfaced in the case in February, 2015 after the Rangers submitted a report in the Sindh High Court containing the revelations of an under-trial prisoner, Rizwan Qureshi. Earlier, it was only deemed a case of lack of safety measures at the factory which became cause of the death of the workers.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2016.
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