The inferno at the Karachi garment factory was contained by Thursday but has left several burning issues behind.
Fearing fallout from the inferno, the export-oriented textile industry tried to keep its distance from the ill-fated factory, but also called upon a thorough investigation of the incident.
“It is a big incident and we cannot ignore it,” said, chairman Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) Shahzad Saleem.
The association has 650 members, and Ali Enterprises, the Karachi factory where 259 workers perished, was a member.
“Our association does not have the power to check every member factory of ours,” Saleem said when asked what PRGMEA does for safety inspections.
“The buyer that places an order with a local company does its own audit of the factory,” he said.
Businessmen and leading associations in Karachi, who have links with Ali Enterprises, are not ready to share any information, fearing backlash towards their own businesses. The associations are silent on who buys the products of Ali Enterprises, and how the factory received its audit clearance from local authorities and foreign buyers.
The Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), which the factory was a member of, issued a press release on Thursday, offering condolences to the affected families.
The chamber also pointed out that the incident will give a bad name to the country.
“If timely action is not taken to address safety problems and action against those who are responsible for this incident, it would have a negative impact on Pakistani exports, which are already on a decline,” the release said.
Officials of SITE, the industrial estate where the factory is located, said owners of Ali Enterprises had illegal constructions on the premises, against the approved factory map.
SITE officials said the maps of basement, ground floor, first and second floor contained emergency exits, but the owners altered the design later.
Imran Khan visits factory
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan on Thusday visited the garment factory and offered his condolences to the victims’ heirs
Separate laws for the influential and the weak led to this incident, Khan said.
“More than 100 industrial incidents in the last one year expose faulty labour laws and the present government’s indifference to the working class,” he added.
He demanded compensation for the victims and a review of safety and social security rules.
ILO offers assistance
The local chapter of International Labour Organization (ILO) expressed shock over the Karachi fire incident and offered support to the victim’s families
ILO Country Director Francesco d’Ovidio will meet the Secretary, Sindh Labour Department on September 14 to discuss ILO’s support for the families of the victims and to help improve labour inspection to prevent such incidents in future, said a press release issued by the agency on Thursday.
ILO will also offer institutional capacity building of the Sind Labour Department to improve its efficiency.
It offered skills training scholarships to 500 members of the victim’s families and offered technical assistance on rapid training of labour inspectors in Sindh, on promoting fire safety at workplace.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2012.