KARACHI: A four-member team launched a new probe into the Baldia factory fire case on Thursday and decided to sit daily to examine the first investigation report of police that contained some 7,000 documents.
The investigation team headed by the additional inspector general of Sindh police, Khadim Hussain Bhatti, first called Sub-Inspector Jahanzaib, the investigation officer of the case, before wrapping up its brief introductory meeting.
A brief statement released to media about the meeting said: “Former IO of the case Sub-Inspector Jahanzaib appeared before the committee and informed it of details of the case. It was decided that the committee comprising Additional IG-Crime Branch Khadim Hussain Bhatti, DIG Mushtaq Mahar, Colonel Sajjad Bashir of Rangers and Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director Altaf Hussain will meet daily to complete the re-investigation of the case as early as possible.”
The Sindh home department had last week set up the new investigation team to look into the incident with “all possibilities and angles”.
The officials avoided sharing details of the first meeting. Besides, there was no word on the mandate of the investigation team and their planned course of investigation.
However, sources privy to the details of the first sitting said that a thorough study of the report filed by the former IO was the key objective so far for the four-member body.
“The police investigation report filed by the IO contains 7,000 documents,” said a source citing proceedings of the first meeting. “It included statements of factory owner, workers who survived, firefighters and area people. There are pictures, footage, evidence, record of court proceedings and other things which are normally part of any investigation report.”
So, he said, the team would first like to know the findings of the previous investigation report before initiating its job.
After a thorough study of the report, he added, the committee would visit the site, record statements of the members of the previous investigation team, factory workers who survived, eyewitnesses and take into account every possible help including forensic analysis of the evidence that could lead to know the reason behind the fire.
Almost forgotten, the September 2012 tragedy hit the headlines again earlier this month when Rangers submitted the report of a joint investigation team (JIT) to the Sindh High Court in which a suspect, Rizwan Qureshi, blamed the Muttahida Qaumi Movement for the deadly fire that claimed the lives of 258 workers.
Though the SHC 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, the suspect’s statement sent ripples and attracted strong reaction from political and government quarters.
Later, the interior ministry placed the names of six people — five of them named in the JIT report and described as senior members of the MQM — on the exit control list in line with the recommendation of the investigators.
“The first meeting of the investigation team actually set the course of the investigation,” said the source. “For that purpose they have decided to look into all those facts which were previously detected and mark flaws, if any, in those facts or the way they were unearthed. It may take time as it’s a matter of more than 250 lives so it requires extraordinary care and sensitivity.”
Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2015