RAWALPINDI: Justice Mamoonur Rashid Sheikh of the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench on Thursday granted protective bail to three Karachi-based garment factory owners facing murder charges over the death of more than 250 workers of their factory, which was wrecked by a fire on Sept 11.
The court restrained the police from arresting the factory owners till Oct 1 and directed the accused owners to deposit Rs5 million each as their surety bond and appear before the court concerned before the expiry of their protective bail.
Sardar Mohammad Ishaq, counsel for factory owner Abdul Aziz Bhaila, told the court that Aziz, 75, was a chronic diabetic and heart patient. He said after the fire incident he was under tremendous pressure and on Wednesday suffered a stroke when he was in Rawalpindi.
He said Aziz was immediately taken to the Kalsoom International Hospital in Islamabad where, as per the doctors’ report, his condition was still unstable. He told the court that Mr Aziz and his two sons — Shahid Bhaila and Rashid Bhaila — had earlier obtained protective bail from the Larkana bench of the Sindh High Court and the court had directed them to appear before the trial court by Sept 22. He said after obtaining the protective bail Aziz joined the investigation and surrendered his passport to the court and appeared before the investigation team in line with SHC directions.
Meanwhile, his bank accounts were frozen, which was shocking for him, and ultimately he suffered a stroke, the counsel added. He said the protective bail of the factory owners was to expire in a couple of days and due to public and weekly holidays the court would not hear their case before Monday, and the police might arrest them after the expiry of their protective bail.
He requested the court to grant protective bail to Mr Aziz and his sons, Shahid and Rashid, till Oct 1.
Advocate Ishaq told Dawn that the police had wrongly inserted Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code in the FIR registered against the factory owners.
He said there was no intention of the owners to kill such a large number of factory workers and to destroy their own business worth billions of rupees. He said the factory owners had no enmity with the workers and the incident was a tragic accident which should be reported in the FIR accordingly.
Advocate Mohammad Qausain, another counsel for the factory owners, told Dawn that obtaining protective bail from the high court of another territorial jurisdiction was a routine matter and it provided the suspects safe access to the court of competent jurisdiction.
He said Aziz after getting the protective bail from the SHC on Sept 14 arrived in Rawalpindi for some personal reasons because his protective bail was to expire on Sept 22. But at the time Aziz was about to go back to Karachi, he suffered a stroke and was hurried to the hospital. His sons also arrived in Islamabad to look after him, he added. They wanted to go to Karachi to obtain pre-arrest bail on Friday, but since the government had announced a public holiday they could not get even interim bail before the expiry of their pre-arrest bail, therefore, they approached the LHC Rawalpindi bench to get another protective bail, said the counsel.