An anti-terrorism court in Karachi is expected to announce its verdict in the high profile Baldia Factory case on Thursday.
Over 260 persons were burnt alive when the garment factory was put on fire on September 11, 2012.
The ten accused includes then provincial minister for commerce and industries Rauf Siddiqui, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) then Badia Town sector in-charge Abdul Rehman alias Bhola, Zubair alias Charya, Hyderabad-based businessmen Dr. Abdul Sattar Khan, Umar Hasan Qadri, Iqbal Adeeb Khanum, and the four gatekeepers of the factory Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood, and Ali Mohammad have been charged with setting the factory on fire.
They allegedly acted on the instructions of the then chief of MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, Hammad Siddiqui.
The trial was going on at the judicial complex inside the central prison. The ATC judge is expected to conclude the trial and announce the verdict in the high profile case tomorrow.
A fire broke out in a denim factory near Hub River Road in the Baldia area of Karachi on September 11, 2012, killing 260 workers and injuring about 50 others.
The JIT report, made in June 2015, two and a half years after the incident, came to light five years later.
The report recommended that the FIR was filed based on” dishonesty” due to the internal and external pressure which turned the act of “terrorism” into a normal fire incident. Therefore, the FIR filed earlier should be returned and a new FIR should be registered.
It was recommended to include names of Rehman Bhola, Hamad Siddiqui, Zubair Charia, four unidentified accomplices, Umar Hassan Qadri, Dr. Abdul Sattar, Ali Hassan Qadri, and Iqbal Adib Khanum in the new FIR.
The demand for Extortion of Rs 200 million
At the beginning of the report, a map of the factory was given stating that the factory, which was built on about 47,000 square yards, had a basement, ground, mezzanine, and another floor.
The ground floor had a warehouse and washing area, the mezzanine had a wooden floor with iron girders, a stitching unit on the first floor, and a similar unit on the second floor.
Ali Enterprise owners Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila recorded statements in Dubai before the JIT as the two brothers had moved to Dubai a few months after the incident.
The owners’ statement indicates that the matter has been under discussion for several months. According to the statement, two or three months before the incident, in May-June 2012, Shahid Bhaila met Majid Baig, brother of Asghar Baig, in-charge of MQM Bladia town sector, in the office of production manager Mansoor.
Majid said that the sector in-charge was demanding crores of rupees in terms of extortion money.
In the same period, Asghar Baig was removed and Rehman Bhola was appointed in-charge of Baldia town sector.
On the night of July, he visited the office of the factory’s production manager, Muhammad Mansoor. When they reached there, they saw that Rehman Bhola and Majid Baig were present, so they returned without saying anything.
According to them as they were leaving the factory, Rehman Bhola came in front of the car and threatened to resolve the issue of extortion and contact Hamad Siddiqui, head of the MQM’s organizing committee in Karachi. He also talked about giving Rs 200 crore or a share in the factory.
“We called the production manager, Muhammad Mansoor, and told him what was going on. He assured us that he would deal with it, but we felt that Mansoor was quiet and nervous, so we told him,” he said. We gave one crore rupees and said go and solve the matter.
Production Manager Muhammad Mansoor in his statement to JIT admitted that the MQM sector in-charge was influential in factory affairs.
He said that a huge amount of money was taken from the factory owners in the name of Zakat and Fitrana, in addition to the cut-price fee, money was collected in the name of party donations and he also had a role in hiring and dismissing employees.
According to Mansoor, Sector Incharge Rehman Bhola came to meet him on July 20, and at that time Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila had gone.
The next day, the owners told him that Rehman Bhola had demanded extortion of Rs. 250 million for the head of the organizing committee, Hamad Siddiqui.
The owners were upset. They handed over one crore rupees to me so that I could settle the matter. I tried but Rehman Bhola was not ready to take less than Rs 200 crore. He warned that if the sector did not get the extortion, the factory and the owners would face serious consequences.
Muhammad Mansoor has reiterated the same position in his statement to the magistrate.
He said that the cotton waste of the factory was picked up by Abdullah Memon and Irfan Baig through Majid Baig. Later he gave the contract to his niece Faryal on which Abdullah Memon had a bitter argument.
Wasim Dehlavi, who was associated with the MQM, often visited the factory and received paints and money from the factory as an Eidi. He also received zakat and Fitrana for the MQM.
Zubair worked in the finishing department, he was also an MQM worker and he also looked after the affairs of the factory workers.