KARACHI: Three years on, the wounds of those affected by the Baldia factory fire have still not healed, said Zareena Begum, who lost her 25-year-old son, Abdullah, in the blaze.
She was among a hundred others protesting outside Karachi Press Club on Sunday against the 'unkept' promises of compensation made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and a business tycoon. At least 259 people were killed on September 11, 2012, after a fire erupted at Ali Enterprises, a garment factory in Baldia Town.
"Abdullah was the sole bread-earner of our family. Since he left us, it has become difficult for me to run a household with six daughters," she said. "We are suffering because of the apathy of the authorities and their false promises."
According to the protestors, Nawaz had pledged Rs0.3 million as compensation for the families of the victims on behalf of the Punjab government in 2012, while Shah had promised a government job for a member of each family and the real estate mogul had announced Rs0.2 million in financial aid.
"None of them fulfilled their promises, not even Nawaz after becoming the country's prime minister," said Muhammad Tariq, another protestor. "Those who were responsible for the deaths are still at large."
The protest rally, from Regal Chowk to the KPC, was organised by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and the Baldia Factory Fire Affectees Association. Speaking at the protest, NTUF deputy general secretary Nasir Mansoor said that if their demands were not fulfilled, they would be compelled to stage a hunger strike. He also emphasised the need for the government to implement labour laws and improve working standards in Pakistan's factories.
"Those affected by the Baldia factory fire should be compensated in the same way as the heirs of the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh were," he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2014.
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