KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday asked a counsel for the Rangers to seek instructions from the authorities concerned as to whether or not they wanted to file an appeal against the acquittal of four men, including Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Rauf Siddiqui, acquitted in the Baldia factory fire case.

“This court after going through evidence, might itself take notice, if we consider that the appeal against the acquittal ought to have been filed, and so-called influential accused are being deliberately and intentionally shielded by the state,” a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Muhammad Karim Khan Agha, told the counsel for the parties.

The bench made these observations while hearing appeals filed by two convicts — Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, and M. Zubair, alias Chariya — against their conviction in the famous Baldia factory fire case.

In September last year, an antiterrorism court had sentenced to death Abdul Rehman and Zubair and awarded life imprisonment to four watchmen of the ill-fated Ali Enterprises garments factory.

Four persons, including Rauf Siddiqui, were acquitted in the case

Over 260 workers perished when a fire engulfed the multistorey industrial unit on Sept 11, 2012.

But the trial court had acquitted four others, including then provincial minister for commerce and industries Rauf Siddiqui, citing a lack of evidence against them.

In October last year, both the convicts had filed their separate appeals with the SHC challenging the death sentence handed down to them by an antiterrorism court in the case.

On Monday the counsel informed the bench that appellants were minor accused in the entire scheme of the offence which had been committed and that the main accused, who were influential persons, had been acquitted and yet the state had not filed any appeal against such acquittals.

The bench directed the special public prosecutor representing the Rangers, Rana Khalid, to seek instructions whether or not an appeal shall be filed against those who were acquitted. He was further told to file a compliance report in this regard on the next date.

In the meanwhile, two miscellaneous applications were filed on behalf of the families of the deceased, who were killed in the fire at the Baldia factory, who asked the court to implead them as interveners in these matters.

The judge observed that none of the applicants were complainants in this case, as such “we do not find interveners’ applications to be maintainable and the same are hereby dismissed.”

The appellants — former sector-in-charge of the MQM’s organisational structure Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, and an activist, Zubair, alias Chariya — had argued in the appeals that the trial court’s judgement was passed without observing the principles laid down by the apex court.

Their counsel had further argued that the trial court did not appreciate the material contradictions of the prosecution evidence. They added that the people had died in the tragic incident due to the negligence of factory owners and the departments concerned since there was no emergency exit in the industrial unit.

They maintained that no evidence was produced before the trial court about the allegation of extortion.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2021

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