Three factory owners facing murder charges over Tuesday’s massive blaze in Karachi’s Baldia neighbourhood travelled all the way to Sindh High Court’s circuit bench in Larkana seeking protective bail on Friday.
Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila appeared before the court with their lawyer Abid Mansoob Qureshi. Qureshi explained that the family went to the Larkana court as they feared for their lives in Karachi.
According to Qureshi, he first attempted to get bail from the sessions court in Karachi, but the premises were inundated by SITE-B police. After that, he said that they attempted to go to the Sindh High Court at its principal seat in Karachi, but police were waiting there as well. Finally, he said that they attempted to go to the Hyderabad circuit bench as well as Sukkur, but were ultimately unable to dodge policemen who were tracking them.
The single bench comprising Justice Hassan Azhar Rizvi, after hearing the application of Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons, granted them protective bail until September 21 for Rs500,000 each.
“We told Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi that we are willing to proceed through the legal course, and without a protective bail security, repercussions were there,” Qureshi said.
Brushing aside accusations of leniency by the court, Qureshi said, “If the judge has been associated with an outlawed chamber, such a strong order could not have been passed.”
“The bail order was strictly according to merits of the case,” Qureshi told The Express Tribune.
According to reports, the court directed the interior ministry to add their names to the exit control list and ordered the applicants to appear before an investigation officer in Karachi at 9am on Saturday. The court also directed them to hand over their passports to the reader of the concerned court in Karachi.
“The bench ordered my clients to surrender their passports to the nazir of the court and also ordered that their names be placed on the ECL within two days. When I told the bench that the passport of Abdul Aziz is with the UK embassy, the court ordered that I get it back and surrender it in two days time,” said Qureshi.
“I don’t know how the fire started in the factory,” Arshad Bhaila told media outside the court premises. According to Arshad’s account, the blaze erupted in the warehouse of the factory and as soon as he heard the news, he immediately called the fire brigade. He told the media that the fire brigade took an hour and a half to reach the location.
Arshad also said that the fire brigade did not have a sufficient amount water to extinguish the fire and went for refilling to Sakhi Hassan.
“We remained in the factory till midnight and then an important person asked us to leave the factory,” he added. When asked who called him, Arshad refused to disclose any further details.
Arshad also used his interaction with the media to insist that nothing was wrong in the factory and everything was operating according to factory bylaws.
Expressing sorrow over the deaths of the factory workers, he said that their families will be compensated, according to factory and labour laws. “We have sought this bail, because we want to be with our workers who are injured and we want to mitigate their suffering,” he added.
Workers burned to death or suffocated in the massive blaze that engulfed Ali Enterprises clothing factory on Tuesday evening. Police registered the murder case over the fire on Thursday, saying the owners had shown “utter negligence” over workers’ safety.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2012.
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