KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday admitted for hearing appeals of five convicts challenging their sentences in the Baldia factory fire case.
A two-judge bench of the SHC issued notice to the Prosecutor General and sought the complete record of the case from the Anti Terrorism Court (ATC). Two Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) workers Abdul Rehman alias Bhola and Zubair alias Chariya were sentenced to death for their role in the Baldia factory inferno case.
Other convicts who filed the appeals are Fazal Ahmed, Hakeem and Arshad Mahmood. The appellants stated in their pleas that the ATC ignored key evidence while deciding the case. Zubair and Rehman have blamed the factory’s owners for the incident saying the doors were closed when the fire broke out on the instructions of the owners.
On September 22, the ATC had convicted Bhola and Chariya on eleven counts, handing each of them death sentences on two counts, life sentences on four counts, 10-year prison term on two counts as well as imprisonment of seven, three and two years on three counts.
The factory’s four employees – Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad – were found guilty of aiding the convicts in carrying out the arson attack and were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The court acquitted MQM leader Rauf Siddiqui, who was then the provincial minister for commerce and industries, while Hammad Siddiqui has been declared a proclaimed offender in the case. Four others Umar Hasan Qadri, Dr Abdul Sattar Khan and Iqbal Adeeb Khanum were also acquitted.
Over 260 workers were burnt alive when the multi-storey garment factory was set on fire in Baldia Town on 11th September 2012, making it the deadliest industrial blaze in Pakistan’s history. The court has announced the much-delayed verdict after more than eight years. The trial was conducted in the judicial complex inside the central prison.
On 5th July, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) had stated in its conclusive report that the incident was an act of terrorism. The investigators had revealed in the 27-page report that the factory had been torched over non-payment of Rs250 million extortion.
The JIT stated had also sought to provide protection to the witnesses of the incident. It had emerged that Hammad Siddiqui and Rehman Bhola were directly involved in the incident.
The two main suspects acted on the instructions of the then chief of MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, Hammad Siddiqui, over the non-payment of extortion by the factory’s owners.