Karachi: Probe body sees deliberate criminal negligence; FIR lodged against owners
KARACHI: The inquiry committee formed on Wednesday to probe the garment factory fire in Baldia Town has termed the incident deliberate criminal negligence. Moreover, an FIR has been lodged against the mill owners, Abdul Aziz, ShahidBaila and Arshad, who are still at large, under sections of murder, attempt to murder, and other heinous crimes under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The Inspector General of Police (IGP),Fayyaz Ahmed Leghari, taking notice of the fire incident formed the committee under the supervision of Additional Inspector General of Police (Additional IG), Karachi, IqbalMehmood. The Tuesday evening fire within the Ali–Enterprises in SITE-B police remits killed over 298 people, including 17 women, hospital officials and rescue workers said on Wednesday. In the IGP Sindh’s meeting with the committee members — IqbalMehmood, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Mohammed Farooq Awan, SSP West, and Amir Farooqi, SSP Investigation West — Leghari instructed the members to thoroughly investigate the incident. He also instructed them to take help from the Sindh Police’s Forensic Division for technical and scientific assistance.
SSP Mohammed Farooq Awan of the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA), Karachi, while talking to The News termed the Ali-Enterprise fire as a deliberate move and not just criminal negligence. He added that after receiving orders from the IGP to investigate the clues and facts behind the fire, he visited the crime scene with other members.
Moreover, he added that the committee would probe the incident from various angles, including the reason behind the fire to the hidden faces involved, and fix responsibility. He mentioned that he had inspected very few sections of the factory, as most of it was still on fire and spoke with the witnesses and staff present at the scene, including Asif, a production manager.
SSP Awan said that initially it was found that at around 2:30pm on Tuesday afternoon, the mechanical staff started the generator when routine loadshedding occurred. At about 6:30pm, power was restored. However, a major fluctuation occurred within the wires due to which a blast occurred inside the generator and boiler, which led to the fire erupting throughout the factory.
He added that at the time of the fire, there were about more than 300 workers present inside it as it was the closing time of the morning shift and the evening shift was about to start. On receiving a call from the factory, the fire department immediately moved its tenders there, he added.
Upon reaching the factory, the fire department found that only one gate was opened out of the four. The fire tender entered the factory premises and the factory authorities ordered to close the gate, not allowing anyone to leave the premises without checking.
SSP Awan said the mill owners were found to be using illegal electricity connections and termed the incident a complete deliberate move and an act of criminal negligence. The SSP disregarded reports of extortion threats to the owners and said it was propaganda made to divert the case from deliberate criminal negligence to conspiracy. Moreover, he added that his teams were carrying out raids for the arrest of the accused owners.
SSP West Amir Farooqi told The News that had also visited the crime scene and found there were four doors for entry and exit but the owner had ordered to close the three gates of the factory since long and only one gate was used on a daily basis.
He added that an FIR was lodged against the mill owners, Abdul Aziz, ShahidBehla, and Arshad, under sections of murder, attempt to murder and other heinous crimes under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The owners who were present when the fire broke out have escaped.
SSP Farooqi said that various angles will be investigated, which includes the approval of the SITE plan of the factory without fire exits. He added that the SITE managing director would be contacted and if found that the map had a fire exit plan which was not constructed, the owner would be held responsible and if not then both the parties would be charged.
He added that it was also found that the factory had employed many children as labourers. “We shall also take into account the labour laws and call industrialists, civil defence and social security officials for investigation as further probe is under way.”