The families of the Baldia fire victims want to remind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of his promise to pay Rs300,000 as compensation to each of them.
Sharif made this promise, as the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, when he visited the Baldia factory soon after the tragic industrial disaster on September 11, last year, when at least 250 people died.
At a seminar on Saturday, the families asked the prime minister to fulfil his promise. They were speaking at a seminar on Saturday, organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and trade union committee to mark the first anniversary of the incident at Piler’s office.
The speakers discussed the progress in the compensation process for the victims as the families shared the problems they face in getting their Employees Oldage Benefit Institution (EOBI) pensions, death certificates, death grants from the workers welfare fund and jobs promised by the SITE Association of Industry and Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association to those who lost their jobs in Ali Enterprises.
“The Baldia factory fire incident was the biggest industrial fire incident in the world in which 255 workers died while 55 were injured according to official figures,” pointed out lawyer Faisal Siddiqui, who has filed petitions in Sindh High Court on the incident. “The aim of the cases in the court is to compensate those who are left behind by the deceased and to penalise those who are responsible for this incident.”
Siddiqui claimed that a lot of influential men have tried to weaken and distort the facts. “Even former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was among those who asked the police to withdraw the murder charges from the FIR against the factory owners,” he claimed. With the support of international lawyers, Siddiqui and his team is planning to file a petition against the Italian company RINA, which had issued a compliance certificate to the factory, to make sure they pay compensation as well. “We have pleaded the court ask the government to acquire the factory land and establish a centre and a monument,” he said.
Piler has established the Pakistan Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights where the complaints of the families will be received and a hotline will also be established.
Trade union leader Noor Muhammad asked the families to support their struggle. “If we forget the incident then I am sure it will happen again and some other workers like you and your relatives will be burnt,” he said.
Piler joint director Zulfiqar Shah appreciated the efforts of the trade unions’ committee and Siddiqui in securing compensation for the families. A Europe-based rights network, Clean Clothes Campaign, has raised the issue at the international level and, due to their efforts, the German company KIK – the main client of the factory – has provided $1 million as compensation, he pointed out. “The KIK has even agreed to long-term support to the families.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2013.