KARACHI: The black patches on the walls of Ali Enterprises are a stark reminder of that fateful night when 260 workers were burned alive.
Three years on, hundreds of mourners stood in front of the factory premises in Baldia, holding pictures of their loved ones who were lost in the tragedy.
The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and Association of Baldia Tragedy organised a condolence reference at the site to mark the third anniversary of factory inferno on Friday evening. The reference was attended by scores of civil activists and heirs of the victims. Missing in action were the elected representatives and government officials.
The charred building reminded elderly Muhammad Tariq of his 22-year-old-son, Faizan, who lost his life in the incident. “In just five minutes, the whole building was burned down,” he recalled. He said that his son used to pray five times a day. “He went back to the factory after offering Asr prayers and then never came back,” he said, adding that he was the only breadwinner of the family.
Tariq does not seek any compensation. He said that no amount of money could heal his wound. “I just want justice,” he said. “I just want to see the culprits behind bars at least once. Maybe that will provide a bit of solace to us.”
Trying to cover her face with a scarf with one hand and holding pictures of her two sons with the other, Sarwari Begum couldn’t control her emotions. She was standing outside the building where she lost everything. She said that her two young sons, Adil and Asif, were her world. “Life without them is nothing,” she said.
She demanded justice. “The owner of the company has run away and there is no one to listen to our woes,” she complained. Sarwari gets a monthly stipend for her two sons but that too will end after two years. She said that if the government was doing nothing for them, it should at least make the stipend life-time.
According to NTUF deputy secretary Nasir Mansoor, the inferno was one of the biggest industrial tragedies in history. When asked what the government had learned from the incident, he replied, “Nothing.”
Almost every factory of Pakistan depicts the scenario of Ali Enterprises in terms of lack of safety and healthcare measures, he said, adding that the killers of 260 workers, including the owners of the factory, international brand KIK and social audit company RINA must be taken to task.
Home Based Women Workers Federation general secretary Zehra Khan lamented that there was no estimate of how many unregistered factories were working in the same conditions as that of Ali Enterprises in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2015.