In view of the blaze at the textile factory, the country’s topmost body of traders and industrialists has called on the government to start a nationwide drive to ensure safety standards at factories.
“This is a huge loss. We want to follow it up until its logical end,” said Haji Fazal Kadir Sherani, the president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) while talking to The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
“We must ask the government how such factories get the clearance from government departments without meeting the safety standards,” he replied when asked about the safety rules prevalent at factories. “The owners are to be held responsible if safety standards are neglected at their factories.”
The incident is not the first. Some factories are located in congested streets where even fire tenders can’t go. “Both the fire incidents of Karachi and Lahore need thorough investigations and we are ready to support the government in this task,” Sherani added.
Muhammad Irfan Moton, the chairman of the SITE Association of Industry, the representative body of industrialists where the textile factory was located, was busy responding to phone calls about the fire which has claimed the lives of 289 people so far.
“We want proper investigation of this incident,” said Moton, when asked about the fear that some people may try to save the factory owner. “The government is doing its investigation and since there is no politics involved, I do not think anything can be covered up. We cannot let it go on like this.”
The association also issued a press release offering sympathy to the aggrieved families over the tragic incident.
If the factory owner of Ali Enterprises fails to pay compensation to the workers within seven days, the Sindh government will pay the money to the affected families by selling the factory land, announced the provincial minister for industries, Rauf Siddiqui.
The government has registered a case against the factory owners – the Bhaila family. The factory owners and government departments are both equally responsible for such incidents, said the president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Mian Abrar Ahmed.
“Corrupt government officials in connivance with the factory owners give out safety clearances to such buildings with unsatisfactory safety principles,” Ahmed answered, when asked who was responsible for the fire in Karachi. The ministries of industries and labour regulate the safety rules and regulations for factories but the problem comes in their implementation. For instance, the provincial labour department is responsible to issue certificates for facilities like fire safety measures and hygiene conditions, but the factory owners are somehow able to get away from all such procedures, the KCCI president said.
There are over 40 chambers of commerce in different cities of Pakistan that come under the umbrella of FPCCI. The KCCI looks after the seven industrial associations in Karachi, including the SITE Association of Industry, in whose jurisdiction the fire broke out.
The Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) has already started contacting factories in the city to ensure safety standards, following the incidents in Karachi and Lahore.
Naeem Anwar Qureshi, the SCCI president, said that he had directed the disaster management committee to contact its member factories and ensuring safety rules are followed at all companies.
He also advised other commerce chambers to ensure safety regulations in their respective areas. “We have also asked the district coordinators not to issue safety clearance certificates to any factory that does not comply with the requirement of emergency exit doors,” Qureshi added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.