KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday directed the interior secretary to appear before it on Sept 25 and observed that apparently the ministry was negligent as it had not pursued the extradition of a proclaimed offender (PO) in the Baldia factory fire case.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, was hearing the matter pertaining to government’s efforts to bring back Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Hammad Siddiqui, who is the PO in the factory fire case.
On Sept 11, the bench had directed the interior secretary, Sindh home secretary and inspector general of police (IGP) to file progress reports about the efforts to bring to Mr Siddiqui, the then head of the MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, to justice.
When the matter came up for hearing on Monday, the interior and home secretaries and IGP were not in attendance.
SHC summons top bureaucrats, seeks reports on bringing back three proclaimed offenders from abroad
DIG-South Syed Asad Raza appeared in court on behalf of the IGP and submitted that the Sindh government had made a request to the interior ministry in August 2016 to initiate the process for the issuance of a red notice for Mr Siddiqui.
However, he also submitted that the red notice was due to expire after a period of five years and as such the provincial government had again approached the ministry for its reissuance in September 2021.
Interior ministry’s section officer G. M. Mahmoodi was also in attendance.
The bench deplored that the section officer had no knowledge whether the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had made a request again to Interpol for the issuance of a red notice.
“He has also no knowledge even in which country proclaimed offender Hammad Siddiqui is residing despite a lapse of five years. This prima facie shows negligence on the part of the ministry of interior in not pursuing the proclaimed offence in a case in which over 260 persons lost their lives,” the bench observed.
It directed the interior secretary to appear in person on Sept 25 and file a report that what efforts had been made by the ministry to trace Mr Siddiqui.
The SHC, in its order, also stated it was expected that at least the secretary would know about the country in which the proclaimed offender was residing and confirm that a red notice had been issued and that it also made a request to extradite the PO.
Reports on two other POs sought
The bench also directed the interior secretary and the DIG to file reports about efforts being made to bring to justice another PO, Khurram Nisar, who had fled to Sweden after killing police constable Abdur Rehman in November 2022 in a Clifton locality.
Besides, the SHC also sought a reply about the extradition process of a third PO, Syed Taqi Haider, from Dubai who had fled the country after killing an insurance officer in Karachi around 10 years ago.
About the extradition of Mr Haider, the section officer of the interior ministry submitted that relevant documents had been sent to the ministry of foreign affairs so that they could do the needful.
The bench directed the interior secretary to inform it about the efforts being made to locate the whereabouts of Mr Siddiqui as well as two other POs.
The SHC also said that a senior foreign affairs ministry official must also appear in court on the next date of hearing and file a report about the steps taken to extradite those proclaimed offenders.
The bench also directed the advocate general to ensure his presence on the next date as it noted that no one bothered to attend Monday’s proceedings from his office.
CS told to provide list of all factories
The bench summoned the Sindh chief secretary after it was informed that nothing had been done yet in the light of the court’s last order regarding inspection of all factories operating in the city.
The judges noted that it had passed directives in the Baldia factory fire judgement asking the authorities to inspect all the factories operating in Karachi and the department concerned would certify in writing in respect of their compliance with health and safety measures at their workplaces.
On Monday, the focal person of the home department, Ali Asghar Mahar, appeared in court and conceded that nothing had been done so far regarding inspection of factories in compliance with the court’s directives.
“On the next date, chief secretary government of Sindh shall appear in person and provide a list of all the factories operating in Karachi and also against each listed factory indicate whether or not they have been inspected and submit a report whether health and safety certificates have been issued and that each factory is running with all safety measures and there is sufficient firefighting apparatus/equipment available at side,” the bench ruled.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023