SHC takes exception to govt’s failure to bring back Hammad Siddiqui for Baldia factory fire case

Jamal Khurshid
Tuesday, Sep 19, 2023

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday took exception to negligence of the ministry of interior for not pursuing the extradition matter of Hammad Siddiqui, a former incharge of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee and proclaimed offender in the Baldia factory fire case, despite the lapse of seven years.

During hearing the matter pertaining to the extradition of Siddiqui for the Baldia factory fire case, a division bench of the high court headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha expressed concern over the negligence on part of ministry of interior for not pursing the extradition of proclaimed offender in a case in which more than 260 persons had lost their lives.

The SHC had earlier upheld the death punishment of two MQM activists in the Baldia factory fire case and directed the interior ministry to submit a progress report with regard to extradition of Siddiqui.

The South DIG appeared before the high court on behalf of the Sindh inspector general of police and submitted that the Sindh government had made a request for issuance of red notice for the proclaimed offender on August 19, 2016, and such a red notice was later issued. He added that the Sindh government had again made a request for issuance of a red notice on September 26, 2021, after the expiry of the previous notice.

A section officer of the interior ministry, however, said he had no knowledge whether the Federal Investigation Agency had made a request again for red notice to the Interpol. He said he was also unaware about where the proclaimed offender was residing after the lapse of 5 years.

The SHC directed the interior secretary to appear in person and file a report on the efforts the ministry had made to trace the suspect wanted in the Baldia factory fire case.

The high court observed that it was expected that the interior secretary at minimum would know about the country in which the proclaimed offender was residing, and could confirm whether or not the red notice had been issued to bring the proclaimed offender back to the country.

Regarding the health and safety measures of all factories workers in Karachi, the focal person of the home department conceded that nothing had been done till date.

The SHC directed the chief secretary to appear in person and provide the list of all the factories operating in Karachi with details about whether these factories had been inspected or not, and submit a report on whether health and safety certificates had been issued to them.

The chief secretary was also directed to inform the high court whether all the factories were running with the safety measures and there were sufficient fire apparatus and equipment available there.

It is pertinent to mention that an anti-terrorism court had awarded death sentence to Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, and Zubair, alias Charya, on the charges of arson, extortion, terrorism and causing 264 factory workers’ deaths.

The SHC, however, set aside the life sentences of factory employees and gatekeepers Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad, saying the prosecution could not produce any evidence against them for committing the offences they had been charged with.

According to the prosecution, MQM leaders and activists torched the factory over the non-payment of Rs250 million in extortion. The main accused, Rehman, had admitted in a confessional statement that the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia Town was torched on the former MQM Karachi Tanzeemi Committee (KTC) incharge’s instructions.

More than 260 factory workers were burnt alive and many others suffered injuries on September 11, 2012, when the factory was set on fire.

The high court also directed the ministry of interior to submit a report on the efforts that had been made for the extradition of Swedish dual national Khurrum Nisar who fled the country after killing a policeman in the Defence area in November last year and another proclaimed offender Syed Taqi Haider who fled the country after killing an insurance officer in 2008 and had been residing in Dubai.

The interior ministry official submitted that relevant documents had been forwarded to the ministry of foreign affairs with regard to extradition of the accused in Dubai. The high court directed an official of the ministry of foreign affairs to appear in person and file a report with regard to the extradition of the accused.