KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Friday summoned the last remaining prosecution witness to testify in the Baldia factory fire case.
Over 259 workers perished when a deadly fire engulfed the Ali Enterprises garment factory’s building in Baldia Town on Sept 11, 2012.
Nine accused — including then provincial minister for commerce and industries Rauf Siddiqui of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Abdul Rehman aka Bhola and M. Zubair aka Chariya — have been charged with setting ablaze the factory with the help of its four gatekeepers — Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad.
So far 399 prosecution witnesses have deposed and IO will be the last one to testify
On Friday, the ATC-VII judge, who is conducting the trial in the judicial complex inside the Karachi central prison, summoned Inspector Raja Jahangir, the last witness of the prosecution, in the present case.
The matter was fixed for Oct 28.
Detained accused Rehman and Zubair were produced from prison while MQM lawmaker Siddiqui and others appeared in court on bail.
Special Public Prosecutor Sajid Mehboob Shaikh said that Inspector Jahangir was the fourth investigating officer in the present case, who had submitted three charge sheets.
He said that the case had entered the final phase as only one witness was to be examined.
399 PWs testified so far
The paramilitary Rangers, which became the prosecuting agency in the present case, had initially listed 768 witnesses in the charge sheet. Later, 368 of them were given up for being unnecessary. So far, the court has examined 399 witnesses.
In the third charge sheet, IO Jahangir had allegedly exonerated from all charges factory owners Abdul Aziz Bhaila, his sons Arshad and Shahid, manager Mohammad Mansoor, gatekeepers Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad, another employee Shahrukh, Hyderabad-based businessman brothers Ali Hassan Qadri and Umar Hassan Qadri, Zubair alias Chariya, Dr Abdul Sattar and Iqbal Adeeb Khanum.
However, the court had summoned all 13 accused persons for recording their statements and the formal trial began after long delays.
According to the prosecution, the accused persons acted on the directives of then Karachi Tanzeemi Committee chief Hammad Siddiqui and set the industrial unit on fire after its owner refused to pay Rs250 million extortion and 50 per cent shares in the profits.
Earlier, the defence counsel for the accused persons cross-examined SSP Sajid Sadozai, the IO in the third joint investigation team constituted in February 2015 to probe the incident.
SSP Sadozai also deposed that earlier the police investigated the matter allegedly under pressure from the MQM which enjoyed position in the then government and was more powerful.
He said that a statement of alleged hitman Rizwan Qureshi had paved the way for the third re-investigation into the case.
Siddiqui and Ali Hasan Qadri have already been declared as proclaimed offenders in the present case.
A case was registered under the relevant sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 at the SITE-B police station.
Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019