KARACHI, Feb 8: Labour leaders and civil society representatives demanded on Thursday that compensation be immediately paid to the heirs of all Baldia factory fire victims including the ones whose DNA results were awaited.

Speaking at the press conference, organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) at the press club on Thursday, they demanded that the payments be made through a commission set up by the Sindh High Court and headed by retired Supreme Court judge Rehmat Hussain Jaffery.

Karamat Ali of Piler, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation and trade union leaders Noor Mohammad, Nawab Ali and Rehana Yasmeen criticised Sindh Health Minister Sagheer Ahmad over his reported statement that the bodies being kept in the Edhi morgue would be buried together. They questioned the move for mass burial of the bodies through the district administration. They asked the government to decide about the burial of the bodies in consultation with the Sindh High Court and the commission it constituted.

Despite conducting DNA tests thrice and waiting for so long, they said it was unfortunate that the bodies had still not been identified, indicating weaknesses in the country’s DNA testing system.

They demanded that the government compensate the relatives who had provided their DNA for testing. Twenty two families who had received the bodies should be immediately provided compensation without further loss of time, they said. They explained that about 262 workers had lost their lives on Sept 11, last year. While relatives of 210 deceased had received compensation cheques, the heirs of 22 victims who received their bodies later were not handed over compensation cheques, they said.

Yet another 17 bodies being kept at the Edhi morgue had not been identified, they added.

They said the factory owners must have a record of all the workers. That record should be recovered to determine the exact number of workers in the factory, they added. The speakers criticised the Employees Old-age Benefit Institution (EOBI) for providing to the families the pension documents that were valid for five years only. They demanded that the families of all the victims should be given lifelong pension. They also demanded that the compensation amount given by the government, factory owners, certification authorities and a German company, KIK, should be pooled for permanent rehabilitation of the families of the factory fire victims. They further demanded that Justice Qurban Alvi’s commission report be made public. The speakers also noted that the promise made by the prime minister about payment of death grant from the workers’ welfare fund had not been fulfilled.

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