Baldia factory fire case: Police drop ‘intentional murder’ charge against suspects

More than 250 people lost their lives on September 11 last year.

Rizwan Shehzad January 14, 2013
This photo, taken on September 11, shows a man looking into the stitching room on the third floor of the factory. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/FILE

KARACHI: In the second such turnaround in the Baldia factory fire case, investigators have dropped premeditated murder charges against all nominated suspects due to “lack of evidence”.

More than 250 people lost their lives on September 11 last year when a fire broke out at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia Town. The case was registered under sections related to murder against the factory owners, its general manager, security guards and some government officials over negligence.

Now the police have prepared a supplementary charge-sheet withdrawing the intentional murder charge because no substantial evidence was found directly implicating the suspects in the killings.

The charge-sheet was submitted to the additional district public prosecutor, who has asked the case investigating officer, Jahanzeb Khan, to submit it through the special public prosecutor. “The investigation and the statements of witnesses and suspects recorded in the court under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code have revealed that premeditated murder charges against the suspects, Abdul Aziz, Arshad Bhaila, Shahid Bhaila, Mansoor, Fazal Ahmed, Ali Muhammad and Arshad Mehmood are not proven,” the charge-sheet read.

The charges of unintentional murder (Section 322 of the Pakistan Penal Code), bodily harm (section 337) and common intention (Section 322) have not been withdrawn against the suspects. “As I was ordered by the court, I have submitted the supplementary charge sheet No. 138-B/12,” the investigating officer said.

“No case can be built on assumptions. This is not even a case,” argued the factory owners’ lawyer, Amir Raza Naqvi, while talking to The Express Tribune. The police have not done any forensic tests so far and built a criminal case orally, he said.

Naqvi raised the question that why his clients were put behind bars when the police have not even determined the cause of the fire.

“Police have weakened the case due to pressure but we’ll not let anyone do any injustice with the workers and the bereaved families,” Nasir Mansoor, the National Trade Union Federation deputy general secretary, said.

This is not the first U-turn made by the police in the case. The law enforcers had earlier included four government officials - the labour director, SITE managing director, Civil Defence additional controller and Karachi Region-II electric inspector - but later requested the court to omit the charges against them as “institutions could not be charged since they were not persons and departmental action could be taken against them”.

The second judicial magistrate West, Sohail Ahmed Mashori, had denied the request stating the investigating officer’s contention was not lawful as the police had sought time to fix the responsibility of the institutions. The court then issued non-bailable arrest warrants and ordered that the police include government officials in the inquiry.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2013.


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