Baldia factory fire: Reinvestigation taking place as new IO appears in court

SP Sajid Sadozai, appointed last month, seeks possession of factory owners’ computers.


Our Correspondent April 26, 2015
PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: The Baldia factory fire case took another twist on Saturday, as a new investigation officer (IO) turned up in court.

SP Sajid Sadozai appeared before the trial court, submitting that he was the new case IO, appointed for a reinvestigation last month by the relevant authorities. The move came when the case was about to reach the indictment process, as copies of all the prosecution-related documents had been supplied to the accused.

When the additional district and sessions judge V of District West, Naushaba Kazi, asked the newly appointed IO about the completion of the reinvestigation on his part, Sadozai replied that he could not provide her with a timeframe.

The IO also moved an application seeking possession of the computers of the Ali Enterprises factory owners and employees, which was approved by the judge.

Justice Kazi asked the state counsel, Chaudhry Arshad Gill, about the appointment of a new special public prosecutor, since the previous one, Shazia Hanjrah, had detached herself from the case in mid-February. Gill revealed that Hanjrah’s resignation had not yet been accepted and the judge, in return, issued a notice to the provincial law secretary calling for his response.

While the hearing of the case, held after the gap of a month, had the agenda of arguments about the admissibility of a supplementary challan, this failed to happen. The challan in question was submitted by the then IO, sub-inspector Jahanzaib, in January 2013. This challan, which had removed the offence of premeditated murder, had been opposed by Hanjrah, who had contended that the suspects were being relieved of responsibility in it.

The challan had also shown four public servants — then SITE managing director Rasheed Solangi, labour department director Zahid Sheikh, civil defence additional controller Ghulam Akbar and chief electrical inspector Amjad Ali — as innocent. They had been implicated in the case for negligence on the orders of a judicial magistrate.

The accused factory owners, Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, did not appear in court for the hearing, instead moving an application through their counsel seeking pardon for their absence. Meanwhile, the counsel for the accused factory general manager, Muhammad Mansoor, told the court that his client had been detained by the Rangers for three months and could not, therefore, be present at the hearing. The three accused gatekeepers of the factory were present in the court.

Concluding the hearing, the judge directed the new IO, Sadozai, to submit a report on the progress in the investigation by the next date of hearing, scheduled for May 16.

The Ali Enterprises inferno, which occurred on September 11, 2012, reached a death toll of 260 after a young girl wounded in the incident recently succumbed to her injuries.

In February, a dramatic confession about the blaze came to the forefront as the Rangers submitted a joint investigation team report to the Sindh High Court. The report quoted an absconding suspect, Rizwan Qureshi, who claimed that the factory was set on fire by men affiliated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement over non-payment of extortion money.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2015. 

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