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KARACHI: Eighteen prosecution witnesses recorded their testimonies before an antiterrorism court on Friday in the Baldia factory fire case.

The ATC-VI judge, who is conducting the trial in the judicial complex inside the Kara­chi central prison, summoned remaining witnesses on Sept 24 to record their statements.

Nine accused — including Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker Rauf Siddiqui, Abdul Rehman alias Bhola and Zubair alias Chariya — have been charged with setting ablaze a garments factory in the Balidia area with the help of its four gatekeepers — Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad.

The prosecution claimed that the suspects acted on the instruction of the then head of the MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, Hammad Siddiqui, after the factory owners did not pay protection money.

Of 670 prosecution witnesses, around 540 have been examined

On Friday, the matter was fixed for recording statements of eighteen prosecution witnesses in the case.

The witnesses deposed that they were legal heirs of the deceased workers, who had gone to their work at the factory as usual on Sept 11, 2012. However, they further deposed, their loved-ones did not return home.

They testified that they heard the news about the fire at the Ali Enterprises and rushed to the site but found the building up in flames and the rescuers trying to douse the fire.

The witnesses further testified that most of their relatives’ bodies were not identifiable when the rescuers finally retrieved them from the building. They said they had gone through the lengthy procedures of DNA collection and matching after which they came to know their relatives had died.

After recording their testimonies, the judge summoned other prosecution witnesses and adjourned the hearing till Sept 24.

There are around 670 witnesses listed by the prosecution in the case. Of them, around 540 have already been examined.

Bail dismissed

Another antiterrorism court on Friday dismissed the bail application moved by a detained accused in a case pertaining to an encounter and killing of a police constable.

The accused, Haji Naik Muhammad, along with others has been charged with attempted murder, murder, extortion and terrorism.

The ATC-X judge, who conducted the trial in the judicial complex inside the central prison, pronounced his order, which he had earlier reserved, after hearing arguments from the both sides.

The judge observed that it was apparent from the FIR that the accused and the co-accused had fired at the policeman, as a result of which, he lost his life.

The judge further observed that the deceased was a police official and the accused by resorting firing created a sense of fear and insecurity in the police as well as the public at large. So, the act committed by the accused dis-entitles him for concession of the bail.

“Under the above discussed facts and circumstances, I do not find the applicant/accused entitled for grant of bail and thus, the instant applications stand rejected being devoid of any force, as the case of prosecution is based upon unimpeachable evidence,” ruled the court.

The judge, however, clarified that such observations would not affect the merits of the case and directed the prosecution to bring further evidence on record and dig out the truth.

The prosecutor, Ghulam Hussain Dalwani, opposed the bail plea, arguing that the court had earlier dismissed and a rejected similar application of the accused on Dec 22, 2016, as there was strong evidence available to suggest his involvement in the commission of the offence and recovery of illicit weapons from his possession.

Earlier, the defence counsel, Muhammad Aslam Bhutta, submitted in the bail plea that his client was quite innocent, but the police falsely framed him in the case with mala fide intentions.

He further submitted that nothing was recovered from the possession of his client and that the recovery of the weapon was foisted upon him by the police.

The counsel argued that the police had failed to cite any independent or private witness in the case despite the fact that the place of the incident was a thickly populated commercial area, which was a clear violation of Section 103 of the criminal procedure code.

He also mentioned that the court had already granted bail to three co-accused — Sain Bux, Sher Zaman and Ali Asghar Solangi — while the fourth co­-accused, Khalid Hussain, was also granted bail in the case by the high court.

The counsel maintained that his client had not committed any non-bailable offence and pleaded for his post-arrest bail, as a similar plea was earlier rejected by the court on Dec 22, 2016.

According to the prosecution, on July 4, 2011 a police team carried out a raid in Sector 6/C, Jogi Goth, Mehran Town in Korangi Industrial Area upon receiving information regarding presence of some members of an extortion/land grabbing gang.

However, some 30/35 persons fired at the police and Head Constable Naveed Tanoli sustained bullet injuries and died on the spot, it added. After an exchange of fire the police arrested Khalid Ali, Zohaib Ahmed, Javed Akhtar, Ayaz Khan, Haji Naik Muhammad, Muhammad Siddique, Khalid, Abdul Kareem, Haider Gul, Sher Zaman, Raza Muhammad and Ghulam Ali.

The police also recovered a Kalashnikove rifle with 15 live rounds from Naik Muhammad, a repeater gun from Raza Muhammad, a .30-bore pistol from Ghulam Ali. All of them had failed to produce licences of their weapons. Around 10 to 12 accomplices of the arrested accused persons managed to flee with the official sub-machine gun of the slain policeman.

They were arrested and booked in two separate cases registered under Section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 324 (attempted murder), 302 (premeditated murder), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 395 (punishment for dacoity) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with the Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and Section 13-D of the Arms Ordinance at the Korangi Industrial Area police station.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018