KARACHI: Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, a former sector in-charge of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, confessed on Thursday before a judicial magistrate to his involvement in the Baldia factory fire case.
The suspect was arrested in Bangkok through Interpol a couple of weeks ago and the Federal Investigation Agency brought him back last week. He was later remanded in police custody for questioning.
Police produced the suspect before the court of a judicial magistrate (West) for his confessional statement.
After completing the legal formalities, magistrate Abid Ali Lakho recorded the confession under Section 164 of the criminal procedure code.
Over 250 workers were burnt alive when the building was set on fire in September 2012
According to judicial sources, the suspect confessed that he with Zubair, alias Charya, set the factory ablaze on the instruction of then chief of the MQM organising committee Hammad Siddiqui as the factory owners had refused to pay the demanded protection money.
After recording the confessional statement, the magistrate sent the suspect to prison on judicial remand till Dec 29 and directed the investigating officer to submit a supplementary investigation report in the antiterrorism court-II.
The prosecution said that over 250 workers were burnt alive when the multi-storey garment factory was set on fire in September 2012.
Initially, owner of the factory Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his two sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, general manager Mansoor and three gatekeepers were charge-sheeted for their alleged negligence. However, a reinvestigation of the case was ordered in March last year through a joint investigation team after it was revealed in an earlier JIT report of suspect Rizwan Qureshi, submitted to the Sindh High Court in February 2015, that the factory was set on fire because its owners had failed to pay protection money.
In March this year, the police in a progress report told the court that the factory fire was a planned terrorist activity and the JIT had recommended that a new case be registered under the antiterrorism law and proposed former chief of the MQM Karachi Tanzeemi Committee Hammad Siddiqui, his alleged frontman and then Baldia Town sector in-charge Abdul Rehman, Hyderabad-based businessmen brothers Ali Hasan Qadri and Umer Hasan Qadri, Dr Abdul Sattar, Zubair Charya, and others as accused in it.
After a lengthy reinvestigation, police had come up with a supplementary investigation report in August in which they charge-sheeted Hammad Siddiqui and his alleged frontman Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, and their three to four unidentified accomplices as absconding accused.
But police did not send for trial 13 suspects, including the owners and some employees of the ill-fated industrial unit, and listed them among the prosecution witnesses.
Police had also not charge-sheeted brothers Ali Hasan Qadri and Umer Hasan Qadri, and some others who were among the proposed accused in the JIT report.
Referring to the JIT report, the supplementary charge sheet said that Hammad through Abdul Rehman had approached the factory owners to demand protection money of Rs250 million and partnership, but the owners only offered Rs10m, which the alleged extortionists did not agree to receive, and they allegedly set the factory on fire “in order to teach the owners a lesson”.
The trial court, however, enlisted all the 13 discharged persons, including the owners and key prosecution witnesses, observing that the owners/manager had ordered closure of the gates while the others abetted the crime.
Police had incorporated sections 302 (premeditated murder), 324 (attempted murder), 337 (shajjah), 384 (punishment for extortion), 385 (putting person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion), 386 (extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt), 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), 109 (abetment) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with sections 6 and 7 of the ATA in the supplementary charge sheet and a list of 58 prosecution witnesses was also attached with it.