KARACHI: The investigation officer of the Baldia factory fire case has been changed recently after the order of the Sindh High Court, the victims’ families and representatives of labour organisations were told during their meeting on Thursday. The families of the Baldia factory fire victims gathered for a general meeting held at the Pakistan Medical Association office.

The meeting was arranged by a group working for rights of the victims, called Ali Enterprise Factory Fire Affectees.

Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) said that the IO had been changed after he failed to comply with the court orders in presenting the charge-sheet against the accused. As a result of it, the accused were enlarged on bail, he added.

After a long wait of two years, there were several positive developments which the NTUF general secretary shared with the families.

The first and foremost problem faced by the families was to get pension from the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution, which Mr Mansoor said was almost resolved. “Apart from that, the Sindh Employee Social Security Institute is also playing a supportive role in helping out the families. Because of which a majority of the families have been issued pension cards except for the remaining 11 people,” he added.

Also, according to Mr Mansoor, the high court passed an order to give Rs500,000 in aid to the families, which was promised by Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Nawaz Sharif when he visited the families in 2012 and was not prime minister.

“The families will start getting the amount from next week,” he added.

Mr Mansoor and counsel for the families of Baldia fire victims Faisal Siddiqi explained that local issues had almost been settled and now there were only two remaining issues to deal with — one, to get the compensation from the foreign companies involved; and two, to ask them to also pay up for the pain and suffering caused by families as well.

“The families are still awaiting compensation from the international brands and social audit company. KIK is still non-committal when it comes to the payment. But in January, a team of lawyers from five European companies is filing a case against RINA, that presented the social audit certificate to Ali Enterprise,” Mr Mansoor added.

Advocate Faisal Siddiqi told the families the assistance promised by the PM would be paid as soon as the amount had been deposited with the Nazir of the Sindh High Court.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2014