Rights body says Gadani toll was much higher

Balochistan govt rejects demand for judicial inquiry into deadly incident

Qaiser Butt December 29, 2016
A man looks at the wreckage of a burning ship a day after a gas cylinder explosion at the Gadani shipbreaking yard on November 2, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has disputed the Balochistan government’s claim that only 26 workers were killed in the Gadani shipbreaking yard fire on Nov 1.

The rights body said the number of workers killed, injured and missing was much higher than the provincial government’s claim.

Following an investigation, the Karachi-based Sindh chapter of the commission revealed in its initial report last week that 140-170 workers were inside the decommissioned ship when it caught fire.

Gadani ship blaze: Heirs of victims to get Rs2 million each

In her findings, NCHR member Anis Haroon said absence of required safety measures led to the disaster. The report said 40-45 illegal Bengali migrants who were hired by the contractors were also at work. There were also workers from K-P and Balochistan.

According to the NCHR, violation of labour laws and human rights as well as negligence and callousness of the provincial government and the owner of the decommissioned ship proved to be contributing factors for such huge losses.

The commission pointed out that Balochistan CM Sanaullah Zehri during his visit to the site announced Rs1 million for each family of the victims as compensation but the provincial government has not issued any notification so far.

The CM had asked the owners of the ship to bear the financial expenditures involved in the promised compensation but his orders were not implemented, the report claimed.

Meanwhile, the Balochistan government has turned down the demand for a judicial inquiry into the deadly incident. Jan Achakzai, a senior aide to the CM, said.  “A provincial inquiry committee headed by Balochistan finance secretary has already submitted its finding report on the incident.”

Fire breaks out at Gadani shipbreaking yard

The demand was made by QWP chief Aftab Sherpao last week when he accused the Balochistan government of concealing the true death toll.

Achakzai said the formation of a judicial commission for inquiry would not serve any purpose as the QWP chief’s demand was nothing but a ploy to defame the PML-N-led government in Balochistan.

“Since Sherpao’s party is a partner of the PTI’s K-P government, therefore he is trying to politicise the Gadani fire issue to malign our government in Balochistan,” he said.

Sherpao had asked the provincial government to hold a judicial inquiry to determine the real toll. Expressing his concern over the killing of “more than 200 workers” in the fire incident, Sherpao said a majority of those killed, injured and missing from the K-P.

“Over 200 workers from K-P had either died or were missing but the Balochistan government has not been giving exact figures to the dismay of the affected families,” he said.

In a press statement issued from party’s central office Peshawar on Tuesday, the QWP leader said the judicial commission’s report would provide authentic and real data of victims for helping out the compensation and other related issues.

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“It is a matter of regret that the workers at the ship breaking yard are deprived of regulation and inspection of safety standards,” he said, urging the authorities to enact effective legislation to protect the rights of labourers.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2016.


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