Baldia factory arson case: SHC admits pleas for hearing

KARACHI:Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday admitted for hearing appeals of five convicts, including two MQM workers, challenging their sentences in the Baldia factory fire case.

A two-member bench of the SHC, headed by Justice KK Agha, issued a notice to the Prosecutor General and sought the complete record of the case from the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) that handed down the September 22 verdict sentencing Zubair aka Chariya and Abdul Rehman aka Bhola to death for their role in the deaths of over 260 people in the 2012 Baldia factory fire.

Other convicts who filed the appeals are Fazal Ahmed, Hakeem and Arshad Mahmood. The appellants stated in their pleas that the ATC ignored key evidence while deciding the case. Zubair and Rehman blamed the factory owners for the fire saying the factory doors were closed when the fire broke out on the orders of the owners.

They stated that there was no alternative door for factory workers through which they could rescue themselves. They said police had nominated factory owners in its initial report. Bhola and Charya also stated in their plea that they were blamed for demanding ransom but no witnesses were produced. They asked Sindh High Court (SHC) to declare ATC’s decision as null and void.

It may be noted that on September 22, the ATC had convicted MQM’s Bhola and Chariya on eleven counts, handing each of them death sentences on two counts, life sentences on four counts, 10-year prison term on two counts as well as imprisonment of seven, three and two years on three counts.

The factory’s four employees Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad were found guilty of aiding the convicts in carrying out the arson attack that resulted in the deaths of 264 people and injuries to 60 others and were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for life on two counts, along with a fine of Rs0.2 million on each count. They were also directed to pay Rs27, 77,353 as diyat to each of the victims’ heirs. However, the court had acquitted MQM leader Rauf Siddiqui, the then-provincial minister for commerce and industries, and three others from all charges on the lack of evidence.

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