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Murder case registered against Karachi fire factory owners

Published Sep 13, 2012 07:38am


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A police officer (L), wearing a surgical mask, stands guard outside a building, after a fire at a garment factory in Karachi September 12, 2012. — Photo by Reuters

KARACHI: Police in Karachi have registered a murder case against the owners of a garment factory where a fire killed at least 258 people in the country's worst ever industrial disaster, officers said on Thursday.

The government has ordered an inquiry and a senior official already told AFP that the two brothers who owned the factory have been barred from leaving the country.

A case has been filed against Abdul Aziz, Mohammad Arshad and Shahid Bhaila and other members of the management of Ali Enterprises, Mohammad Nawaz Gondal, the head of the local police station, told AFP.

“We have registered a murder case against the owners of the factory and several government officials for showing utter negligence to provide adequate security to the factory workers, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people,” Gondal said.

A senior Karachi police officer, Naeem Akram, confirmed the move.

Police are hunting for the factory owners, who have not been seen since the blaze, which erupted late on Tuesday.

The government of Sindh province, of which Karachi is capital, has appointed a retired judge to lead an investigation into the fire, with initial findings expected in a week.

The probe will look into the cause of the fire, protection systems available inside the building and the extent of negligence on the owners' part, a provincial government statement said.

Workers were suffocated or burnt alive at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi, which made ready-to-wear clothing for Western export, when a massive fire tore through the building during the evening shift on Tuesday.

Up to 600 people were working inside at the time, in a building that officials said was in poor condition without emergency exits, forcing dozens to jump from upper storeys to escape the flames, but trapping dozens in the basement where they perished.

Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city with a population of 18 million, shut down in mourning on Thursday for the deaths.

Public transport was suspended and schools and colleges closed. Factories and markets also shut while attendance at offices was thin.

Relatives spent a second day at hospitals, desperate for news of their loved ones, breaking into wails and sobs when medics confirmed the identity of yet another body.

With so many burnt beyond recognition, only 140 of the dead had been identified by Thursday morning, some by DNA, and 115 bodies handed back to families for burial, city police chief Iqbal Mehmood told AFP.

Even 36 hours after the disaster began, several families still gathered outside the gutted factory hoping for news of their loved ones.

Just a few fire tenders were still working.

There was thick smoke in the basement and it was still too hot to go inside, where boiling water formed a pool after firefighters spent hours hosing the flaming building.

“The place is too hot and smoky, it is too risky to go inside and clear the building. We are waiting for now,” chief fire officer Ehtesham Salim told AFP.

Ambulances continued to ply back and forth to the factory, even as funeral prayers for some of the dead had already begun.


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Comments (56) Closed

Amir Sep 14, 2012 03:03pm
Really, are we that myopic? Could you explain the 180,000 factory fires every year that occur in China and Taiwan? How about the Apple factory conditions that were reported recently. Admittedly there is cost involved in managing workers. To produce cheap goods you need to control cost. You cannot have a very high class operation and still produce cheap goods. Every square inch of a factory is valuable space, fire drills, exitinguishers, extra doors and exits - all cost. But we in Pakistan are not willing to pay for it. So we blame the government. We don't support the government for any success but are quick to blame it for any failure. Are you ready to pay more? No. No one is. Worker safety is a huge investment, and anyone who knows anything about investments will realize that at some point you have to recover it or you will be closing down the factory and sending everyone home.
khan Sep 13, 2012 11:58pm
Ghizala kazi Sep 13, 2012 09:11am
as usual govt officers will say hum is haadsey ki muzzamat karate hain. They have as expected announced an inquiry commission. so many investigation commissions were made by govt on each tragedy results of which never appeared. same will happen with this investigation commission. we are senseless people who forget everything and life goes on. what a govt and what a nation.
Mohammad Syed Husain Sep 14, 2012 01:06pm
There will be other buildings and factories with such grave safety violations. It is a must for those responsible to search them out and ensure safety compliance. Those responsible, the minister included should be tried for this crime, should I call this murder.
seema Sep 13, 2012 07:05pm
Had this been in the states the president himself would have been talking part in the rescue efforts this is because the west has always proved that they are better than the third worlds. Here even the roads were closed when the governor came to inspect the area that too after 24 hours. they closed to road for him because he is special the rest of the people who lost the loves one mean nothing when the governor is visiting. Then we want to accuse the west and say that they dont have humanity. Where as after the factory incident we can all see how much humanity pakistani's have. One thing about western countries they have got a heart. They value life be it of a human or animal more than anything. we value our quran more than a human being that is why we are failures. this is a sad but true situation.
Mansoor Haq Sep 13, 2012 04:29pm
there is no system, rules and regulations in Pakistan. The owners are being made scape goats.
edwin Sep 13, 2012 09:45am
I think a murder case should be registered against the high officials of the Labor deptt: & the EOBI, who I am sure were fully aware of the condition of the factory and only turned a blind eye on account of the heavy envelopes they were getting from the owners/management every month to turn their eyes the other way. I am sure that if an honest investigation is carried out in the country you will find there are hundereds of such factories that exist and all the workers working there are not registered with the EOBI,
Ayaz Toor Sep 13, 2012 08:55am
Why not responsible authorities too! like ministry, civil defence and other authorities.
Asma Khan Sep 13, 2012 12:24pm
may Allah rest the souls of the deceased in peace ameen. even this huge diaster would be unable to change anything...
Syed Shah Sep 13, 2012 07:56am
Print media has been lax in highlighting the tragedy.
Shamim Sep 13, 2012 06:37pm
All of the following must be held accountable and asked to respond to the Negligence on their part: 1) Building Control Authority personnel responsible for the code compliance. 2) Fire Department if there is ONE. 3) Also, some independent EXPERT from Europe or USA must be hired to investigate the wreckage and confirm the reason for the Fire. It might be a suspicious fire....ignited by Bhatta Group.... 4) Inquire into work order contracts by the Owner with his Clients to see if there were issues and monetary loss was imminent and only a natural disaster could have saved the owner....
raika45 Sep 13, 2012 01:40pm
Charging the owners will not solve the problem.The first persons to be held by the throat should be the government department heads who are supposed to enforce safety laws.Do not blame the owners for the lack of action by government law keepers.As usual they get away scott free.Owners will get a fine or so and hundreds of families loose their daily bread earners and their loved ones.All because you have no proper administration.
Akhter Husain Sep 13, 2012 09:16am
The very registration of murder case,against the owners,indicate the intentions of officials.They want to satisfy the effected families of deceased ones,at one hand,and on the other hand they must be preparing to hush-up the case I am sure ,there must be relative laws that can be applied to ensure appropriate compensation to all aggrieved families and imprisonment and heavy fines to the owners if proved guilty.
unknown Sep 14, 2012 08:47pm
you are right.
Pro truth Sep 13, 2012 08:59am
All who were responsible for health and safety at this factory, related local authorities should be tried for death of 300 people! even terrorist couldnt do that much damage to human life compared to this fire! Minister should come clean and offer his resignation even if he is not directly guilty but he heads the department that is responsible for this.
Dr Nizam S Prince Sep 13, 2012 10:35am
I know, now-a-days Pakistan is full of live God personalities. Everyone is worshiping his own so called God. No one have sincere sympathy with NATION. Majority people of Pakistan want to get higher position by any mean to increase their income from illegal sources. Leaders don
marghoob ahmed siddiqui Sep 13, 2012 06:13pm
Labour Department, who is responsible to check the working conditions of place of work must also be booked for gross negligence. They are simply sitting for taking illegal money from Industrialists and ignore every short coming may be working conditions or implementation of laws.
Ash Mirza Sep 14, 2012 04:10am
Investigation started after 260 people lost their life?? where was the investigators? It means no one do inspection of factory before factory open!!! I think government inspector need to be punish.. So many factories are very unsafe. Also child labour is common in Pakistan, no one cares.. Very sad, Sincerely, Ash Mirza (USA)
Dilawer Sep 13, 2012 04:00pm
and can you name those few multinational or prestigous socially responsible organizations. ?
Tufal Sep 13, 2012 09:32pm
Pakistan has no electricity , reliance of industry and public sector is primarily on generators and quality control is not known to Pakistanis. Year after year we are haing floods but nothing is done to prevent it. Every citizen is responsible for whay we have today in Pakistan which is nothing but a mess. Dont point fingers at others, it is everone's responsibility .
Akhter Husain Sep 14, 2012 08:11am
Why not the media,print or electronic, be made responsible as they are not highlighting such mismanagement by the so called private enterprise? They are only expert in raising all the hue and cry after the tragedies has taken place.They also make sure that all the blame should be attributed to governments specially if these are elected one.
Akhter Husain Sep 14, 2012 07:51am
Completely agreeable views.Cannot we ,some how, change our mind-set?
Salman Saifi Sep 13, 2012 09:00pm
This factory must be getting regular visits from CIVIL DEFENSE OFFICERS, LABOR DEPARTMENT, SOCIAL SECURITY. MANY OTHERS AS WELL. Please find the government officials who visited this factory and then charge them with negligence, corruption leading to deaths. If this was visited by civil defense then why didn't this factory had fire exists???? Factory owners in Pakistan are in fear for the short cuts they have taken and the horrific results it can produce. Nail them NOW. get the ones who were responsible for maintaining law at these factories and charge every one of them. If this happened in china they would kill everyone responsible, owners, corrupt officers alike. By the way this is not the time to say it but I excuse myself and would like to share the unethical behavior that Labor practices. They refuse to use safety equipment. smoke whenever, wherever. long list. but this factory needed multiple exists and those also with stairs on the outside and every floor must have access to the fire exits and doors must have key in them during working hours. Do listen to the owners too, they will update the nation about the corrupt ways of ministry of Industries. if there is any.
sharmeen Sep 13, 2012 03:03pm
There can be another side of the story too....what if the owners were threatened by extortionists? If the exit doors were locked, what if the doors were locked to save the people from the extortionist
Atiq Sep 13, 2012 10:00am
Very basic safety measures, which may sound as luxury for entrepreneurs to provide, could have saved 100s of lives; fire exit, fireawall, extinguishers etc. It is absolutely vital for the authorities to ensure other facilities have the minimal safety at least.
Razzaq Sep 13, 2012 04:54pm
You are absolutely right Mr.Khan. Pakistan as a country have yet to recognize "Health & Safety" rules and public liabilities.
sobia Sep 13, 2012 09:40am
We (Citizens Safety Services) trying to aware citizens of Pakistan about emergencies like fire, earthquake etc. We must prepare ourselves for next emergencies like fire in appartments / high rise buildings. All appartments / plaza owners must arrange fire fighting equipment / ladders to save people from danger of fire / earthquake.
Caz Sep 13, 2012 03:06pm
Why ?? Its a very objective comment !
shakil Sep 13, 2012 01:29pm
It is shame for our country`s minster who have use several luxarious vechle and firefigheter refill water from a too long distance
Khan Sep 13, 2012 11:42am
Safety is not in the Pakistani Psyche, whether at home, on road, at leisure, on work, wherever. It is practiced only in a few multinational or prestigous socially responsible organizations. We feel proud in flouting safety and only brandishing accusations and safety slogans on such tragedies. Government Officials, Politicians, Media, Public all are talking Safety and fixing of responsibility, just wait a few days all will vanish in thin air and all of us will be as callous as ever. What will not vaish are the woes and the sorrows of those who have lost thier loved ones and their bread winners.
Gerry D'Cunha Sep 13, 2012 12:58pm
John, you are absolutely right. Being a pakistani,I am too aware, nothing is going to change. the authorities are just trying to kll time and everything will be forgotten in just two weeks. Compensation announced by our competent CM will be hanging in the balance.
Bea Sep 13, 2012 03:19pm
Its also the responsibility of the businesses that invest in countries where priorities might be skewed because of the lack of opportunities available, to insist on ethical practices, both at a grass root level & at higher industry & government level. It's no secret that getting goods manufactured out of developing markets is cheaper precisely because regulation in some countries is not as stringent as in more developed & therefor regulated industrialized countries - where workers pay & conditions are prioritized differently. Big businesses also need to encourage responsibility rather than turn a blind eye & pocket the profits of apathy. Equally we as consumers also need to make informed decisions about who we buy from. At the end of the day each of us has a responsibility in the bigger picture of this tragedy. Thoughts go out to the families of the victims of this unnecessary & horrific accident.
mahmood Sep 13, 2012 10:13pm
cannot believe our eyes or ears to know of the tragedy. But then this is Pakistan, and anything--anything can and does happen. SHAME
Sami Sohail Sep 13, 2012 06:20pm
It is another sad tragedy & I think both owners as well city/govt. is responsible for this incident, I agree with other that basic pre-cautions must have been implemented and checked by city & fire official. Those who live in western countries where every business/building owner must maintain a security and safety of all employees. I just hope this tragedy will bring some good out of it for example a regular inspection of all work-places, once or twice a year fire drill with fire-escape and identify any hazardous material storage.
Fazil Sep 13, 2012 09:30pm
It is really sad that so many people died. But the fact is that the owners were doing good for the country by employing so many people. The biggest culprit here is the Govt. authorities who are responsible for Industrial safety act and to abide by the law. They are the one who should severly dealt with not the onwers.
Naseem Ahmad Sep 13, 2012 08:26am
The owners and management are not seen, means they are guilty of not taking precauation for the safety of staff and should bear the full force of justice.
Asim H Khan Sep 13, 2012 03:40pm
I agree, nobody will do anything and we will be in the same situation again. It will be great achievement if the families receive some compensation. There is no hope in Government, Courts or Army, Allah help Pakistan and the Muslim World. Asim
Nadeem Siddiqui Sep 13, 2012 09:02am
Apart from the owners, site association, building inspectors, fire safety officials, labour division, taxation inspectors, EOBI officials etc. must all be held responsible as this tragedy is truly due to corruption for which all are involved. A swift and public trial must follow of all involved. The property and a/cs of owners at large / officials must be seized till they produce themselves in a court of law and compensations paid .
sijjee Sep 13, 2012 07:47pm
Run for president and I shall vote for you.
Mudassir Hussain Sep 13, 2012 08:54am
Very sorry state of affairs!! Every now and then Pakistan is in the news for one thing or another...God forbid but there might be another news in making around the corner which will take all attentions away from this one!
TA Sep 13, 2012 07:31pm
It is the responsibility of the factory owner to ensure the safety of those working there. This is criminal negligence to lock in hundreds of workers without adequate safety measures.
Sir Sep 13, 2012 08:05am
Minister(s) Must resign Minister(s) Must resign Minister(s) Must resign, it so shameful that no one want to take the responsibility morally
John Burke (@jbfootboy) Sep 13, 2012 08:36am
The owners are probably sitting either in Dubai or in London! This tragedy, like many others, would soon be forgotten and no one will be held responsible and no lessons would be learned!
Abdul Malik Sep 13, 2012 01:15pm
You can say that again John. Nothing will happen. Enquiry by a retired or retard Judge, building inspection, police and the whole nine yards. In fact, certain vested interests in the local govt will find, or even devise ways, to make money out of this grave human tradegy. This country from day one is comprised of governments that has been corrupt to the core.
naveed Sep 13, 2012 07:45am
what about the civil defence and labour inspectorate of the respective region?
Minhas Sep 13, 2012 07:30pm
There are a lot of buildings office in Pakistan which are not safe and no fire exit, will any action be taken to ensure this will not happen again ? Jason trade centre on shah rah faisal is also a building where I worked is sitting disaster where there is no chance of survival in case of fire, and office. Of state life insurance also exist please take action now before it's too late as generators are also run and innocent lives are in great danger.
Reader Sep 13, 2012 02:44pm
It's just a news item, would not last for a week. No one will be held responsible.
Razzaq Sep 13, 2012 05:02pm
Excellent idea Sobia.
Hadi Sakey Sep 13, 2012 02:42pm
The Labor Minister says that he was instructed by Qaim Ali Shah to stop inspecton of factories in Sindh and maintain a congenial atmosphere. What a tragedy - such people are Chief Minister. No doubt Karachi has gone to dogs.
Omer Sep 13, 2012 09:49am
spot on John, This is Pakistan and nothing will change till the time we start making education our main priority and end this slavery.
sobia Sep 13, 2012 09:53am
excellent comments. all citizens in danger. please try to save them from emergencies.
Mehmood Anwar Sep 13, 2012 09:36am
A tragedy being manipulated by those responsible into a class thing. This is not about rich vs poor. The Civil Defence employees who ask for bribes irrespective of whether a factory is compliant or not, the local administration which turns a blind eye to illegal use of inadequately planned/fitted buildings, the building control authorities who focus only on "regularising" illegal structures in exchange for bribes are not from the "rich" class. If anything, this is about a total breakdown of government. When everyone in government, whether politician or government employee is focused on "making" money rather than doing their job, it is a wonder that anything functions at all. God help us because nobody else will.
shumaila Sep 13, 2012 09:59am
All people of appartments are in danger, because no safety equipment available in any appartment / plaza. In case of emergency (fire / earthquake) people could not save their family. Because all flats / appartments are cages of death (no emergency exit available). People must force plaza owners to arrange necessary emergency plan to save people's life. We see all rescue services are in very poor conditions. These departments couldn't help citizens.
nabidad Sep 13, 2012 10:00am
I think it will be better if the so-called civilian Government and civil society to take concert measures to stop that kind of deadly incidents 'factory fire tragedy' in future instead of blaming each other. We are all equal responsible of venerable situation of people of Pakistan as well as our beautiful motherland. Almighty God Bless Pakistan
IbDi Sep 13, 2012 10:55am
Nonsense! It can't & shan't be described as murder, there is no element on intent in it. This is just a cover-up to settle down the public rage & the case will eventually drop after a few months in the court. The owners got away with no fire exits because the authorities who were meant to keep an eye on it were corrupt. I can honestly say that many businesses even in west would not be willing to invest in these 'health & safety' measures but the government make them comply so they do. It's the system which needs to be targeted.
Junaid Sep 13, 2012 08:44am
all heads of relevant ministries must resign. There is simply no justification to stay. They also must be prosecuted for criminal negligence