Vowing to arrest those behind the deadly Baldia factory fire, the Rangers have claimed to identify the suspects and a political party responsible for the incident.
Meanwhile, the new Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed to probe the tragedy has started compiling a list of the suspects, victims and informers in order to record their statements.
A meeting was held at the Rangers headquarters in Karachi on Tuesday, chaired by Sindh Rangers director-general (DG) Bilal Akbar, who expressed his concern over interference in the investigation by 'certain elements'. The meeting was also attended by the Rangers deputy director-general, sector commanders and intelligence officials.
"During the meeting, threats to the victims' families and the investigation officer (IO) by a certain extortionist group also came under discussion," said a Rangers spokesperson.
Rangers intelligence officials briefed the meeting about the identification of the party and the suspects, while the disappearance of key suspect Rizwan Qureshi, whose name has been put on the exit control list, came up as well. "The DG has issued orders to arrest all the suspects involved as well as their sympathisers," the spokesperson said, adding that Akbar had also asked for the ongoing operation in the city to be sped up.
Qureshi was arrested by the district South police in connection with the fire following an FIR No 61/2013 registered under Sections 23 (1)A of the Sindh Arms Act at the Artillery Maidan police station. The earlier JIT, headed by SSP South and men from the police, Inter- Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Pakistan Rangers and the Federal Investigation Agency, interrogated him on June 22, 2013.
The accused claimed that a well-known party leader had demanded the owners of Ali Enterprises to pay Rs200 million in extortion via his front man in August, 2012. "When they refused, on September 11, 2012, he [a party front man] and his accomplices threw a chemical substance that started the fire at the factory."
A new JIT was formed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during an apex committee meeting at Governor House to reinvestigate the fire that claimed 260 lives in 2012. The JIT, headed by AIG Khadim Hussain Bhatti of the police's crime branch, held its first meeting on February 25, deciding to meet every day and to record the statements of every person who could provide any information about the case. They also took the testimony of the former IO of the case.
"It is too early to say anything. At the moment, we are compiling the list of the suspects and victims as well as anyone who can provide further information," Bhatti told The Express Tribune. "Then we will start questioning them and recording their statements, and finally we will begin our practical investigation."
A report earlier submitted to the Sindh High Court by another JIT blamed the Muttahida Qaumi Movement for the deadly blaze. The party, however, denied any involvement, terming the charge 'fictitious' and 'biased'. It also demanded reinvestigation of the incident.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2015.
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