KARACHI, Oct 4: Police have remained unable to arrive at any conclusion but mentioned gas leakage and short circuit as ‘possible causes’ of the fire in an interim charge-sheet filed in a court on Thursday in the Baldia fire-wrecked factory case.
While the case investigation officer in the interim charge-sheet stated that no evidence had been found to link the tragedy with arson, he accused the labour department, fire brigade, civil defence, Sindh Building Control Authority, Sindh Employees Social Security Institution and SITE of non-cooperation in the probe.
The devastating fire, which destroyed the multi-storey garment factory building in Baldia Town on the evening of Sept 11 within the remit of the Site-B police station, had left over 250 workers dead.
The IO Sub-Inspector Jahanzab submitted the interim charge-sheet in the court of a judicial magistrate (west) on Thursday. The charge-sheet stated that no concrete evidence to link the incident with any arson activity was found during the course of investigation conducted so far.
“The cause of fire has not been exactly ascertained yet, but there are possibilities that it may have been caused by leakage of gas or short circuit,” it added.
It is worth noting here that the police had earlier admitted before an inquiry tribunal, which was set up by the provincial government to ascertain the cause of fire, that they had no expertise in ascertaining the cause of fire.
The interim charge-sheet stated that details about alleged negligence on the part of the departments concerned would be included in the final charge-sheet.
Letters had been sent to the officials of the departments seeking record related to the factory and help in investigating the fire incident but to no avail, it added.
The CCTV footage showed that the fire spread to the ground and mezzanine floors of the factory on 6:25pm and 6:56pm, respectively. But the management of the ill-fated industrial unit did not timely inform the workers when the fire first erupted, causing huge human losses, the charge-sheet stated.It added that gatekeepers had locked exit points of the factory on a directive of the management because the workers were being paid their salaries in the production unit at the time of the incident.
The investigation officer recommended to the court that the two suspects, Hanif and Mohammad Majid, be released since sufficient evidence was not found to link them with the case.
Citing a total of 301 prosecution witnesses, he stated in the charge-sheet that statements of two eyewitnesses had been recorded under Section 164 of the criminal procedure code, bank accounts of suspects frozen and samples of deceased’s relatives sent to Islamabad in order to identify the remains.
While filing the interim charge-sheet, the IO sought 14 days to file the final one. The court accepted the charge-sheet and granted the request.
Factory owner Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his two sons, Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, have been on an interim bail till Oct 6.
Mansoor, who is said to be the factory general manager, gatekeepers Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad and two other employees Hanif and Majid are in jail custody.
A case (FIR No 343/2012) was registered against the factory owners and others under Sections 302 (premeditated murder), 322 (qatl-bis-sabab), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage etc.), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.), 337 (Shajjah) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code at the Site-B police station.