Man behind Baldia fire disclosures missing: Rangers

Published March 4, 2015
File photo shows fire-fighters trying to control the blaze at the garment factory in Baldia. —AFP/File
File photo shows fire-fighters trying to control the blaze at the garment factory in Baldia. —AFP/File

KARACHI: Suspect Rizwan Qureshi has ‘disappeared mysteriously’, it emerged a month after his disclosure to a joint investigation team (JIT) — citing non-payment of Rs200 million protection money as the motive for the arson attack on the Baldia factory — whose report was filed in court.

The development was highlighted by Pakistan Rangers at a meeting held on Tuesday to review progress in the Baldia factory fire investigation.

Though not quite explanatory, an official statement issued after the meeting, which was chaired by Rangers director general Major General Bilal Akbar, mentioned brief details of investigation findings indicating that there was a threat to the police investigation officer and the families of the fire victims.

The statement mentioned an ‘extortion group’ which was behind the threat but did not name any individual or group. “The meeting showed concern over some elements which are trying to influence the investigation into the Baldia Town tragedy,” said the statement. “The meeting also discussed the threats from an extortion group to the IO [investigation officer] and affectees of the tragedy. The Rangers intelligence has traced the people and organisation which are behind these threats.”

The meeting also discussed “mysterious disappearance of the key suspect of the tragedy Rizwan Qureshi and reviewed its motive as well,” said the statement.

Though the JIT report identified him as a Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) activist, the party denies any association with him.

Mr Qureshi was one of the six people whose names were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) by the interior ministry last month. The others included Hammad Siddiqui, who was a former head of the MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, and Abdul Rahman alias Bhola who was at the time of the incident MQM’s Baldia Town sector in charge, according to the JIT report. Two of the remaining suspects were the MQM’s former sector in charge of Baldia Town Asghar Baig and his brother Majid Baig. However, there was no word on the sixth name, Syed Javed Shakil, in the much-publicised JIT report.

According to the Rangers statement, the Rangers DG issued directives for the arrest of all the suspects involved and their sympathizers. “He also called to expedite the operation by the law-enforcement agencies,” it added.

Almost forgotten, the September 2012 tragedy hit the headlines again last month when the statement of Rizwan Qureshi, also a murder suspect, recorded by the JIT was filed in the Sindh High Court that the factory had been set on fire after it failed to pay Rs200mn extortion demand. The incident had claimed the lives of 260 workers.

At a time when a newly-established investigation team comprising officers from police, Rangers and Federal Investigation Agency started their job, the Rangers statement came up with fresh facts about which the police authorities had showed ignorance every time they were asked.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2015

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