KARACHI - On 11th September 2012, a fire broke out in a garments factory in Baldia Town that killed 289 people and severely injured more than 600 people. The JIT report that has investigated this incident is finally being released by the Government of Sindh. The JIT, after holding six sessions in the factory, carefully examining the ruins, and collecting accounts of 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 fire was started in the factory for non-payment of Rs. 200 million as extortion money.
According to the excerpts from the JIT, report by forensics team corroborated the eyewitness that it was indeed arson and there were multiple sources of fire.
According to report, MQM’s Hamad Siddiqui and Rehman Bhola demanded extortion money from the factory owner but the initial investigation had not mentioned about the extortion money anywhere in the FIR or in the investigation. 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.
The JIT report also talks about the constraints and challenges it faced while carrying out the investigation. It says that the JIT was constituted already very late , around two and a half years after the incident and this caused the criminal site to get compromised which made it hard for the team to collect evidences. The report also criticises the previous investigation conducted and it was done on flawed connotations and presumptions as per the report.
The report also includes an eyewitness account which tells that not only was the factory burnt down the factory with workers inside, they also made sure nobody could escape by locking the doors.
While concluding the report, the 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.