Baldia factory fire: Short circuit, all of Karachi to blame for tragedy, says tribunal

Two-member judicial commission issues investigation report.

Hafeez Tunio December 03, 2012

KARACHI: An electrical short-circuit may have been the initial cause of the Baldia garments factory that claimed the lives of more than 250 people but the “entire system” is responsible for the cause of deaths.

This is the crux of the long-awaited report of the Baldia factory fire tribunal which has been submitted to chief minister and home department.

From the setting up of the factory and its drawing plan, from meeting safety standards and the architects who did not make emergency exits, everything counts in the disaster, the report says while criticising the owners for fitting in maximum number of machines into minimum space.  “Not only the owners flouted the rules, officials of civil defence, labour departments were also negligent,” it stated.

The tribunal, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Kurban Alavi and Khalilur Rehman Shaikh, also refers to several incidents of fire that broke out earlier at the factory, saying all fires were caused by power short-circuits.

Ali Enterprises did not store highly flammable chemicals and the condition of the generators or boilers did not suggest the fire started from there. The tribunal found no evidence against the allegations that factory doors had been locked, wrote Justice Alavi.

The Fire

The fire started in the factory warehouse stashed with large cloth rolls meant for stitching and cutting of jeans and shirts. The rolls were wrapped in polythene material. The mezzanine floor was made of wood and the flames spread to other places from there. The exits on several floors were blocked by fire and in absence of any emergency exits, human lives were lost.

“We would indeed hold the entire system of Karachi responsible for the cause of death at each and every stage,” the tribunal stated while recommending registration of factories as necessary.

The current laws on fire protection are not clear and reference should be taken from the national fire project agency codes. Immediate surveys and inspections of factories by concerned quarters must be carried out to ensure safety measures, it was recommended. The Sindh government had constituted the tribunal on the next day after the blaze at Ali Enterprises on September 11.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2012


Chris | 8 years ago | Reply

I don't know about judges what are they thinking, but if people thinking owners are innocent, guys think again. I have been buying apparel from Pakistan (Karachi & Lahore) for over 30 years now. Gross violations of labor laws by factory owners, bad working conditions in factories, child labor even in certified factories, all government departments and inspectors on factories payroll etc etc etc. These owners have made millions of dollars. Courts and judges should visit should pay attention to their lifestyle. They all live in big fancy houses like mansions in Defence, KDA, Clifton (most expensive residential neighborhoods of Karachi) and can someone tell me what they have done for their workers? Why Ali Enterprise European customer KIK has to pay workers in Pakistan? Is KIK responsible for all those deaths? If that's the case IAM buying from Karachi and my company buys a lot from many factories in Pakistan and tomorrow if there will be a fire in any of the factories Iam buying from will I be responsible for that? All responsibility goes to factory owners and not the buyer.

Kashif | 8 years ago | Reply

we all were waiting for the report to be made public. Thanks for tribunal to reveal the truth.

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