KARACHI: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Tuesday awarded death sentence to Abdul Rahman, alias ‘Bhola’, and Zubair, alias ‘Charya’ in 2012 Baldia factory fire case in which over 260 people were burnt alive.
Rauf Siddiqui, Umar Hasan Qadri, Dr Abdul Sattar Khan and Iqbal Adeeb Khanum have been acquitted for want of evidence while four others were convicted for facilitating the crime.
The highly-anticipated decision, almost eight years after a raging blaze swept through a garment facility in Pakistan’s financial capital, was announced today by the anti-terrorism court.
Among those presented at the hearing were MQM leader Rauf Siddiqui, who is out on bail, and Dr Abdul Sattar — the adopted son of PSP’s Anees Qaimkhani who is accused in the case.
The special public prosecutor had earlier this month said a decision had been reserved back on September 2 after arguments from various parties were completed, with the case pending in various courts for almost eight years.
MQM demanded Rs250 million extortion
According to the prosecution, the factory was set on fire by men affiliated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) because the factory owners had refused to give into the party’s demands for being paid extortion money.
Arshad Bhaila, one of the owners of the factory, had testified in court that MQM men had asked him to pay Rs250 million or a share of 50% in the profits. He said he had been willing to pay Rs10 million.
Throughout the hearings, the statements of some 400 witnesses were recorded, with the factory owners presenting theirs via video link from Dubai.
Former MQM sector in-charges Abdul Rahman, alias ‘Bhola’, and Zubair, alias ‘Charya’, have been arrested in the case.
Bhola was arrested back in December 2016 from Bangkok with the help of the International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol. He had confessed to the crime before a judicial magistrate.
‘We were trapped inside’
“People started screaming for their lives,” the then-20-year-old Mohammad Asif had said. “Everyone came to the window. I jumped from the third floor.”
Employee Mohammad Pervez had said at the time the factory owners “were more concerned with safeguarding the garments in the factory than the workers” and that “a lot of people would have been saved” had there been no metal grilles on the windows.
Another worker, Liaqat Hussain, then 29, had said the blaze engulfed the entire factory “within two minutes”.
“The gate was closed. There was no access to get out, we were trapped inside,” Hussain had said.
The massive fire was initially reported to have been caused by a short circuit.