KARACHI - The joint investigation team (JIT) formed to re-investigate the Baldia town factory fire has declared the incident an act of terrorism. The fire was started when owners of Ali Enterprise (Baldia factory) refused to Rs. 200 million as extortion money.
The findings by the JIT are shared in a comprehensive 27-pages report compiled in March 2015. Sindh government was to make the report public on Monday 6 July, however, the report was leaked a day early.
The previous/initial investigation of the case was completed by SIP Jahanzeb, who concluded the case to be an accident "caused due to short circuit in the factor godown on the ground floor and factory owners and their employees were responsible for not taking precautionary measures which are necessary for preventing loss of lives and property in any such accidental incidents."
The JIT after holding six sessions in the factory, carefully examining the ruins, and collecting accounts of multiple eyewitnesses including the employees of the factory, has nullified the previous investigations and concluded that fire wasn't an accident but a deliberate act of terrorism. According to the report, the fire was unnatural and had multiple origins simultaneously as per forensic reports. The report also declared refusal to pay extortion money to MQM as a motive for this terror activity.
The JIT, to reach the final conclusion, also took into account the recommendations and findings of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency and International Centre for Chemical and Biological Science, University of Karachi. Both these reports also support JIT's findings.
The report also included the testimony of accused Rizwan Qureshi in which he revealed that Hammad Sidique, an MQM party high official and in charge of the Karachi Tanzeemi Committee (KTC), demanded an amount of Rs. 200 million from the owner of Ali Enterprise through his frontman Rehman Bhola in 2012. However, the factory owner went to Asghar Baig, MQM sector in-charge of Baldia town at that time, and made him aware of the demand. Asghar Baig along with his brother Majid Baid arranged a meeting between the factory owners and Hammad Sidique. The meeting was also attended by Farooq Saleem, joint in-charge of KTC. The factory owners refused to pay the extortion money and exchanged harsh words with MQM leaders.
After this first meeting, Sidique suspended Baig and appointed Bhola as the new sector in-charge. Bhola once again asked factory owners to pay extortion money and upon their refusal "threw chemical substance which created [a] fire in the factory on 11 September 2012."
While concluding the report, JIT has recommended withdrawing the previous FIRs and filing of new FIRs under terrorism provisions and include the names of Rehman Bhola, Hamad Siddiqui, Zubair Charia, Umar Hassan Qadari, Dr. Abdul Sattar, Ali Hassan Qadri, Iqbal Abid Khanum and four unknown persons in the new FIR.
The Baldia Town factory fire is probably the goriest incident in the violent history of Karachi. 259 innocent worker lost their lives in this fire while 50 were injured.