Govt protecting ‘big fish’ in Baldia factory fire case: SHC

Court questions why no appeal has been filed against politically influential accused

Our Correspondent August 10, 2021
The Baldia factory fire claimed over 250 lives on September 11, 2012. PHOTO: FILE


It seems that the government is protecting the big fish in the Baldia factory fire case, said Sindh High Court (SHC) Justice KK Agha in his remarks on Monday.

A two-member bench comprising Justice KK Agha and Justice Irshad Ali Shah heard the appeals of convicts Zubair Charia, Abdul Rehman Bhola and others who were convicted in the Baldia factory fire case.

At least 264 people were burnt to death in a fire deliberately caused by elements linked with the then Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM) over nonpayment of extortion money.

The bench raised several questions on the prosecution in the Baldia factory tragedy case. SHC sought a reply from the Sindh Rangers prosecutor within three months on the appeal filed against the conviction of Zubair Charia, Abdul Rehman Bhola and others.

While Charaia and Bhola were convicted by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi, eight years after the tragedy, and handed death sentences, the top guns of MQM were acquitted in the case, including former Sindh commerce and industries minister Rauf Siddiqui.

“Did you file an appeal against the acquittal of Siddiqui,” Justice Agha asked Rangers prosecutor Rana Khalid. The prosecutor said they did not file a plea against the said acquittal, at which the justice said, “it looks like the big fish are being protected.”

Justice Agha questioned that if appeals are filed for small cases, then why was no appeal filed in the case involving the painful death of 264 human beings, “action should be taken against you”. The court asked Rangers Prosecutor Khalid to gather information and file a reply within three months.

The court also rejected an appeal of the families of the deceased to become a party. The junior counsel stated that Barrister Faisal Siddiqui wanted to appear on behalf of the heirs of the deceased but could not come due to busy schedule. As the counsels were not available, the court rejected the appeal of the families to become party to the case. The court remarked that if Faisal Siddiqui wanted to help the state, he could do so.

Gold heist

The same bench heard a petition of a private bank’s branch operation manager, Zulfiqar Junejo, seeking annulment of the case of changing gold jewellery kept in the locker with brass replicas.

The lawyer of the accused stated that Junejo was nominated illegally and urged the court to close the case. The court remarked, "Where is the accused now?" The defense counsel said that Junejo was arrested and a case was registered against him on August 3.

The court remarked, "Did you approach the trial court for bail?" The lawyer of the accused stated that he has filed a bail application in the trial court. The investigating officer said the incident was revealed during an audit of the bank's Gulistan-e-Johar branch. Checking during the audit revealed that the gold jewelry in the lockers was fake.

An inspection of the jewelry revealed that the jewelry was made of brass with gold water on it. The court rejected the plea of accused Junejo. The court directed the trial court to decide on the bail application of the accused within two weeks. The gold jewelry pledged by various consumers was stolen.


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