KARACHI, Oct 9: In an unexpected move, two eyewitnesses deposed on Tuesday against police for allegedly detaining and coercing them to testify against the accused in the Baldia factory fire case.
On a request of the investigation officer, a judicial magistrate recorded the statements of Abdul Majeed, an accountant, and Mohammad Zubair, a supervisor, under Section 164 of the criminal procedure code in the presence of the suspects.
Both the witnesses said they were present at the industrial unit when the deadly fire engulfed it and deposed that they had been in police custody for around three weeks and forced to sign the statements recorded by the IO under Section 161 of the CrPC.
They alleged that the investigators were pressing them to depose against the accused in order to strengthen the case of the prosecution. They deposed that in case of non-compliance, the police had allegedly extended threats to them and their families.
The eyewitnesses further testified that their lives were at stake and prayed for protection.
The accountant also blamed the fire brigade for arriving late, lacking water and faulty pressure pumps, which, they said, made it impossible for them to overcome the fire.
The supervisor said that the gates of the industrial unit were open and claimed that he safely brought more than 100 workers out of the factory.
The case investigation officer, Sub-Inspector Jahanzeb, had filed an application in the court on Monday stating that both eyewitnesses were willing to record their statements.
The court allowed the plea and directed the jail authorities to produce the accused in court.
Judicial magistrate (west) Sohail Ahmed Mashori recorded the testimonies of the witnesses in the presence of the accused and directed the Site-B SHO to provide security to the witnesses.
Meanwhile, the defence counsel on Tuesday filed several applications in the court including seeking better facilities for Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila in jail and copies of documents.
A devastating fire had engulfed the multi-storey garment factory building in Baldia Town on the evening of Sept 11 within the remit of the Site-B police station. Over 250 workers had died in the industrial unit fire.
The owner of the industrial unit, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, was on bail while his two sons, Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, general manager, Mansoor, and gatekeepers Fazal Ahmad, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad were in jail custody.
A case (FIR 343/2012) was lodged against the factory owners and others under Sections 302 (punishment for 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.
The police had submitted an interim charge-sheet in the case on Oct 3, but failed to ascertain the cause of the fire. They suspected that gas leakage and short circuit could be possible causes.