Baldia factory fire was a ‘planned terrorist activity

A Joint Investigation Team ‘reinvestigating’ the Baldia factory fire case that claimed the lives of 259 workers and caused injuries to 50 labourers in Karachi in 2012 has come to the conclusion that it was a “planned sabotage and terrorist activity”. 

The JIT report, obtained by Dawn on Monday, said: “Based upon available evidence and expert opinions, the JIT has come to conclusion that factory fire was a planned sabotage/terrorist activity and not an accidental fire.”

Baldia factory fire
Baldia factory fire was a ‘planned terrorist activity’, says JIT report

It added that the alleged terrorist act was carried out “due to refusal to pay extortion (Bhatta) of Rs20 (Twenty) crores and partnership in factory profits by factory owners to office-bearers, namely Rehman Bhola and Hammad Siddiqi of MQM-A”. JIT members were of the considered opinion that the incident was dealt with in an ‘unprofessional manner’. They termed it ‘a classic manifestation of compromised and mutilated form of policing’. 

“The incident was handled from inception till end in a ‘way and fashion’ to benefit the ‘offenders’ rather than the ‘victims of crime’ for some ‘motives and gains’.” The JIT pointed out that the lodging of an FIR and subsequent investigations were carried out not only with ‘clear mala fide intentions but also suffered heavily from ‘tremendous influence’ both ‘internal’ and ‘extraneous’. “An event of ‘terrorist activity’ was portrayed/translated in FIR as simple murder (later converted into an accident) not against actual perpetrators of crime but against factory owners and its management.

The way the incident was probed into speaks volumes about partisan and partial approach of police under influence,” it added. The JIT members were surprised to note that the FIR and the first investigation nowhere mentioned extortion (Bhatta) and they (JIT members) believed that it was the basic motive and crucial element to plan, prepare and carry out this dastardly act. The JIT considered this omission as an ‘element of prime and critical importance’ as well as a ‘defining factor’ to shape up later investigations. 

“Hence, the JIT recommended that FIR No. 343/2012 u/s 322/337/34 PPC of PS Site-B Karachi shall be withdrawn by the State.”Instead, JIT members suggested that a fresh FIR should be lodged under relevant sections of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), 1861, read with the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997, against several accused. The JIT mentioned proposed suspects/accused to be named in the fresh FIR as “Rehman Bhola, Hammad Siddiqui, Zubair @ Chariya, Omer Hassan Qadri, Dr Abdul Sattar, Ali Hassan Qadri, Mst Iqbal Adeeb Khanum and four unknown associates of Zubair alias Chariya”.