KARACHI: The legal heirs of five Baldia factory victims on Monday moved the Sindh High Court (SHC) to challenge the judgement of a trial court in the arson case and sought a retrial to try the “real culprits”.
They contended that it was a mistrial since all the culprits, especially the main and real ones, namely the owners and management of the factory and the negligent government officials, were not tried by the antiterrorism court (ATC).
An ATC had sentenced former sector in-charge of then Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Abdul Rehman aka Bhola and Zubair aka Charya to death for setting the factory ablaze and awarded life terms to three watchmen of the ill-fated indusial unit while four others, including MQM leader Rauf Siddiqui, were exonerated around two months ago.
The convicts have already filed appeals in the SHC against the judgement of the ATC.
The legal heirs of the five deceased workers and an injured person through their counsel Faisal Siddiqui filed an application to become interveners in the appeals in order to assist the court.
They contended that initially, the FIR was lodged against the owners/management of the factory and various government officials. The investigation reports of police and Federal Investigation Agency said safety and firefighting measures in the factory were highly inadequate. Due to the alleged threat of theft, two exit doors of the second floor were permanently sealed by the factory management, which made it extremely difficult for the workers to find their way in the dark, they added.
They also argued that the factory had employed over 1,500 workers and it was neither registered nor inspected for fire safety purposes by the departments concerned while the social security department had also not registered all the workers. Thus the collusion and negligence of those government departments was clear while the investigation concluded that it was an accidental fire, they said.
The applicants further maintained that the trial court had removed the names of factory owners and government officials from the case and the conviction of the accused persons was based on a mistrial.
Over 260 workers were burnt alive in the multistorey garment factory located in Baldia Town in September 2012.
SHC orders release of funds for hospital
A divisional bench of the SHC on Monday directed the provincial authorities to ensure that the funds for the Sindh Government Children Hospital in North Karachi should be released within a week.
When a petition about the hospital came up for hearing, an additional advocate general filed a statement signed by the chief secretary in compliance with an earlier order of the bench.
It contended that the summary regarding release of funds to the Poverty Eradication Initiative (PEI) for the hospital in North Karachi had been approved by the chief minister on Nov 10.
The bench took the statement on record and issued direction that after approval of the summary and completion of other requisite formalities, the funds must be released within one week.
The PEI, a non-governmental organisation, is running the hospital under the provincial government’s public-private partnership programme.
In the previous hearing, the bench had observed that the main issue was release of funds to make the hospital fully functional and for the chief secretary to expedite the process of approval of a pending summary for grant of the funds for the hospital.
Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2020