JIT report declared Baldia Town factory inferno as a terrorism act

Baldia factory was set on fire for extortion by MQM linked criminals

The Baldia factory fire is considered to be one of the deadliest industrial catastrophes. The fire at Ali Enterprise Garment Factory in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012, had resulted in the deaths of around 260 workers and had left another 49 injures. The harrowing incident not only exposed the appalling working conditions for factory labourers but also served as a reminder of the lawlessness which prevailed in the city. The families of deceased workers are still looking for justice even after 8 years of horrific act. 
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report that made public by Sindh Government today has stated that the Baldia Town factory inferno incident was ‘a terrorism act’. The JIT has rejected it as an accident where more than 260 workers had been burnt alive on September 11, 2012 in Karachi.
The report was signed by officers of JIT belonging to different Law enforcement and investigation departments who have contributed in the investigation of the factory fire case. The investigators revealed in the 27-page report that the factory had been torched by assailants over non-payment of Rs 200 million as extortion money.
The findings showed the irresponsible role of the police, which seemed to be hiding the real characters involved in the mass killing of the innocent factory workers. The JIT investigators said in the report that the prime characters in the terrorism incident of Baldia Town factory fire should be brought back from the foreign country besides putting them in the Exit Control List (ECL) and seizure of their passports.
They also sought to provide protection to the witnesses of the incident. It emerged that Hammad Siddiqui and Rehman Bhola were directly involved in the terrorism incident which was previously dealt with in a non-professional manner.
The JIT members found that many elements attempted internally and externally influence the investigation process in order to benefit the people behind the carnage. It is also exposed that a 1,000-yard bungalow had been purchased in Hyderabad city by using the extortion money by the assailants before the occurrence of the Baldia factory incident.
The First Investigation Report (FIR) of the terrorism act was presented in a way that it was simply a murder incident, said the JIT report, adding the police had failed to carry out the investigation in an impartial way after being pressurised.
In its report, the joint investigation team has demanded to register a new FIR and nominating the prime accused, including Rehman Bhola, Hammad Siddiqui, Zubair Charya and others in the case.
The JIT also recommend improving the rescue services in the Karachi. The report also pointed out those shortcomings of safety in the factory. The JIT also emphasised to introduce reforms in Karachi police to improve its performance.
The prosecution maintains that the factory was set on fire by workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) because the factory's owners had refused to pay them extortion money.
The case thus far is based on the findings of the JIT report which states that the incident was one of arson and the situation was compromised due to the time lapse in rescue measures. The report also disproved the alleged electric short circuit which previous investigations had claimed to be the source of the fire.
In his statement, SSP Sadozai said that earlier investigations had been conducted under pressure from the MQM which benefited from governmental and criminal influences at the time. The statement of the alleged hitman, Rizwan Qureshi, had paved the way for the investigation of the case to be re-opened for the third time, he said.
Meanwhile, independent opinions suggest that regardless of the cause of the fire, the casualties occurred on such a massive scale because the factory lacked basic occupational health and safety standards. It is further said that the design of the building itself was flawed.
According to a London-based research group, Forensic Architecture, which carried out an analysis of the incident using computer simulation, inadequate safety measures at the factory led to the devastating death toll.
                                                                                Khalid Bhatti 

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