Despite widespread uproar over the reports of the government’s decision to drop murder charges against the owner of Ali Enterprises, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) – the biggest chamber of the country – insists that they should be withdrawn and instead the case should continue on the lines of “alleged negligence” on the part of the owner.
The chamber believes there is a clear-cut difference between murder and negligence – both are not in any way synonymous.
“We want the government to complete all the investigations as soon as it can and take action if negligence is proven against the owner of the factory,” KCCI President Muhammad Haroon Agar said in an interview with The Express Tribune. “But we believe that murder charges against the owner are unjustified and should be withdrawn immediately.
“In case of such incidents, even if negligence is proven, you cannot be booked for murder,” said Agar, when asked why the KCCI insists that the government drop the murder charges. “Yes, one may be jailed in such cases and we would not have any problem if he were jailed on charges of negligence.”
Replying to a question, he clarified that the KCCI was not trying to protect the factory owners. “If the government proves criminal negligence on the owners’ part, they may get a long sentence,” he said.
“Our point is that the fire seems like an accident and the case should remain in the realm of an accident and not on the lines of intentional murder. According to our reports, the factory had everything for safety, including ISO 9000, and some other international safety standards.”
Italy-based company RINA had issued Ali Enterprises the SA8000 certificate just three weeks before the fire broke out. SA8000 is compliance certification granted after an audit of a company’s policies, procedures and documentation, to ensure safety at the workplace. Right after the incident, the Italian firm announced it would conduct an investigation. But the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research said that it believes that RINA was equally responsible for granting Ali Enterprises safety certificate SA8000 despite the fact that there were no fire exits in the factory.
“We respect international certifications that the factory owners had as these international bodies themselves inspect factories before issuing such certificates for exports,” Agar said when asked about the authenticity of safety certificates. “It is difficult to challenge their standards.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2013.