KARACHI: The interior ministry has placed six names, including those of five Baldia factory fire suspects described as senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement activists in a joint investigation team (JIT) report, on the Exit Control List, said an official on Thursday.
While the home department claimed that all the six names had been recommended by the police on the basis of the JIT report, the sixth name was not mentioned in the recently publicised JIT report.
The Sindh home department official said the provincial authorities received confirmation from Islamabad that the names of all the six people, which had been recommended by the police investigators for further investigation, were placed on the ECL and all the institutions concerned were informed about it.
“The names included Syed Javed Shakil, Mohammad Rizwan Qureshi, Hammad Siddiqui, Abdul Rahman alias Bhola, Asghar Baig and Majid Baig,” he said. “Suggested by the Sindh government on Karachi police recommendations, these names have been endorsed by the interior ministry.
“The list has been released immediately,” he added.
Among them, Rizwan Qureshi is the one whose statement in the JIT report gave a dramatic turn to the 2012 Baldia Town factory fire case. Though the JIT report marked him as an MQM activist, the party denies any association with him.
Hammad Siddiqui was a former incharge of the MQM Karachi Tanzeemi Committee (KTC), Abdul Rahman alias Bhola was in charge of the Baldia Town sector at the time of the fire incident, according to the JIT report. The two others were MQM’s former in charge of the Baldia sector Asghar Baig and his brother Majid Baig.
However, there has been no word from the home department official and the police on Syed Javed Shakil and reasons behind placing his name on the ECL that has been prepared on the Sindh government request in the light of the JIT report which does not carry his name.
Meanwhile, the city police chief confirmed to Dawn that the investigators had requested their high-ups for placing the five names on the ECL. Subsequently, the proposal was sent to the Sindh government and it finally received a nod from Islamabad.
“The matter is in court, as we all know,” said additional Sindh police IG Ghulam Qadir Thebo. “Now the situation is that the police are investigating the case and at the same time meeting every requirement in line with court orders. So in this context, it’s necessary to make sure the availability of all those persons named in the JIT report in case of any assistance. That was the spirit of this proposal.”
The JIT report was submitted to the Sindh High Court earlier this month by an additional attorney general, along with a statement of the deputy assistant judge advocate general of the Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, Major Ashfaque Ahmed.
According to the JIT report, MQM worker Rizwan Qureshi revealed that a ‘well-known party high official’ had demanded Rs200 million as Bhatta (protection money) through his frontman from the owners of the garment factory, Ali Enterprises, in Aug 2012 and their denial led to the arson attack that claimed the lives of its 258 workers.
However, the SHC last week ruled that the veracity and relevance of the JIT report was to be determined by the competent forum before which it be placed, and told the trial court to decide the Baldia Town factory inferno case within a year.
New investigation team
Meanwhile, a senior police official confirmed that the Sindh home department had set up a new investigation team to look into the incident with ‘all possibilities and angles’.
The official said the team, headed by additional IG Khadim Hussain Bhatti, had been set up on the recommendation of Sindh IG Ghulam Hyder Jamali.
“The other members of the team include DIG Mushtaq Mahar and an officer each from the Federal Investigation Agency and Pakistan Rangers, Sindh,” he added.
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2015