Deadly factory fire: Activist says MQM men ignited Baldia blaze: Rangers

Published: March 15, 2015
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Rangers escort Umair Siddiqui from court premises. PHOTO: IRFAN ALI/EXPRESS

Rangers escort Umair Siddiqui from court premises. PHOTO: IRFAN ALI/EXPRESS

KARACHI: 

One of the suspects detained during the March 11 raid on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s headquarters has confessed that a 2012 deadly inferno at a garment factory in Karachi was ignited by one of the party’s sector in-charges, the Rangers said on Saturday.

More than 250 workers were burnt alive in the blaze at the Ali Enterprises factory in Baldia Town of Karachi on September 11, 2012. MQM activist Umair Siddiqui admitted during interrogation that his party’s sector in-charge for Baldia Town, Rehman alias Bhola, and his aides were behind the deadly conflagration, the paramilitary force said in an official statement.

Umair, who was also presented before an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi on Saturday, was among dozens of suspects arrested during the Rangers raid on the MQM headquarters, a spokesman for the paramilitary force told The Express Tribune. However, Umair told the court that he was picked up by the Rangers on February 15.

He is the second MQM activist to have pointed the accusatory finger at the party in connection with the Baldia factory fire.

MQM’s Muhammad Rizwan Qureshi had earlier made a similar confession before a joint investigation team probing the deadly arson case.

The Rangers statement described Umair as a ‘notorious target killer’. “On the directives of Hammad Siddiqui, a member of the Karachi Tanzeemi Committee of the MQM, the accused [Umair] formed a team of 23 target killers affiliated with various units of the party,” it said.

“Under Hammad’s orders, this target-killing team took the lives of some 120 rivals of the MQM in Karachi including then MQM-Haqiqi leader Amir Khan’s nephew [in 2011] and former Pakistan Peoples Party senator Faisal Raza Abidi’s guard.”

Umair also revealed that the deputy convener of MQM’s Rabita Committee Anis Qaim Khani, in a 2008 meeting, directed all sector and unit in-charges of the party to intensify ethnically motivated targeted killings in Karachi, according to the statement.

He also admitted that he was involved in procuring weapons for MQM’s militant wing from a dealer based in Quetta, it added. “These weapons were transported from one place to another in ambulances.”

“In February 2015, all MQM sector in-charges were instructed by the party to store excess weapons from their respective offices at Nine-Zero in a bid to prevent them from being discovered in raids,” the statement quoted Umair as saying.

ATC proceedings

During the ATC hearing on Saturday, Rangers officials told the judge that they have ‘credible information’ regarding Umair’s involvement in targeted killings, extortion and other ‘terrorist’ activities. They said the accused had been taken into preventive detention for 90 days for further questioning.

Umair’s counsel Advocate Muhammad Jiwani, however, told the court that his client “was one of the missing persons whose petition had been filed before the Sindh High Court.” He requested the court to allow the accused to meet his family.

When the judge turned to Umair, the accused claimed that he had been in detention since February 15, when he was picked up from his house.

An officer of the Rangers Sachal Wing disputed the testimony, saying that Umair was apprehended during the Nine-Zero raid and was handed over to them by the paramilitary force’s headquarters.

After listening to the prosecution, the judge asked the defence to submit a written application in court to allow Umair to meet his family, along with documents supporting the claim that the accused was a ‘missing person’. The judge also allowed advocate Jiwani to meet his client in the presence of a court official.

Talking to The Express Tribune after the hearing, advocate Jiwani termed Umair’s detention a violation of human rights and said his client was targeted because of his political affiliation. The lawyer also said that Umair had been subjected to “excessive mental and physical torture while in custody”.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2015.

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