MQM’s Bhola & Charya sentenced to death in Baldia factory fire case

Rauf Siddiqui, three others acquitted while four other accused awarded life in jail

By: News Desk      Published: 02:55 PM, 22 Sep, 2020
MQM’s Bhola & Charya sentenced to death in Baldia factory fire case

An ATC (anti-terrorism court) in Karachi on Tuesday sentenced two accused to death in the infamous Baldia factory fire case, eight years after the deadliest industrial blaze in Pakistan’s history which claimed the lives of over 260 people, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

The then MQM Baldia Town sector in-charge Abdul Rehman alias Bhola and Zubair alias Charya were the main accused in the case as the prosecution said they ignited the fire to execute the plan.

On September 11, 2012, 264 workers were burnt alive when a multi-storey garment factory – Ali Enterprises – was set on fire in Baldia Town.

Meanwhile, four other accused in the case Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad – who were gatekeepers of the ill-fated industrial unit were also awarded life sentence for facilitating the crime.

The court, however, acquitted the remaining four accused – MQM-P leader Rauf Siddiqui, Iqbal Adeeb Khanum, Ali Hassan Qadri and Abdul Sattar – for the lack of evidence against them.

File photo of Baldia factory fire.

Earlier on September 17, the ATC had unexpectedly adjourned the proceedings until September 22 after the state prosecutor submitted additional documents as was expected to wrap up the hearing into the high-profile case.

The accused allegedly had acted on the instructions of the then chief of MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, Hammad Siddiqui, over the non-payment of Rs250 million ‘protection money’ by the factory's owners.

Hammad and businessman Ali Hasan Qadri were declared proclaimed offenders in the case as both were reportedly in hiding abroad.

The prosecution had rested its case after recording material evidence including forensic, ballistic and chemical analysis reports and testimonies of 400 witnesses against the accused. The prosecution since had given up 369 witnesses for being "unnecessary".

The Baldia factory, Ali Enterprises, is located on Hub River Road and belongs to Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his two sons, Rashid Aziz and Shahid Aziz. German discount clothing retailer KiK (Kunde ist König, which in English translates into ‘Customer is King’) was the factory’s main customer.

The verdict was reserved on September 2 after the prosecution and defence concluded their arguments in the case.

The allegations against the MQM came to light after the 2015 testimony of an MQM worker, Muhammad Rizwan Qureshi alias Pringle. He told investigators that the Baldia factory fire was started after factory owners refused to pay extortion money to party leaders. To investigate these claims, a third JIT was formed comprising members of intelligence agencies and the police.