Malik sees terrorism behind inferno: Record shows factory had 255 workers
KARACHI, Sept 16: With Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday seeing terrorism behind the Baldia factory fire, the record of the doomed Ali Enterprises showed there were only 255 people employed at the fire-struck factory where at least 260 men and women were killed.
The police have dismissed the initial speculations that the fire was caused by a generator explosion.
There were more than 300 people present in the factory when a fire erupted there on Tuesday.
“In fact, there were more than 1,000 workers in the factory,” said the director of the Federal Investigation Agency, Mohammad Malik. “Though the factory’s master roll states that there were only 255 workers, in reality they were more than 1,000.”
Scores of bodies still remain unidentified and DNA samples are being collected from grieving relatives at the Abbasi Shaheed, Jinnah and Civil hospitals for identification.
“We have taken the record in our custody and are currently examining it to ascertain the facts and irregularities in the industrial unit,” said director Malik. The records include bills, certificates of the periodical inspections given by the agencies concerned and other documents.
On the other hand, one of the owners of the factory, Shahid Bhaila, claimed while recording his statement with the police on Saturday that the fire exacerbated because fire-fighters of the city district government did not respond quickly enough.
The owner denied that the factory had only one exit.
The police were unable to salvage footage from the closed-circuit cameras inside the factory but are recording the statements of survivors. They have also requested the State Bank of Pakistan to freeze the account of the three owners.
Rejecting the preliminary report, interior minister Rehman Malik said on Sunday that the ‘element of terrorism’ could not be ruled out from the investigation.
Talking to journalists outside the factory, the minister said: “It seems that there was an element of terrorism in this incident.
Factory fires erupted simultaneously in Karachi and Lahore.
“What were their intentions, who are they and at what level will they come to the fore after the investigation is completed?”
He also claimed that video footage giving some ‘insight’ into the incident was also found even though the police had said they did not find any closed-circuit cameras remaining intact inside the factory.
Mr Malik said the report did not confirm whether the fire was caused by a generator or a boiler explosion. “The fire erupted simultaneously in Lahore and Karachi,” he said, reiterating that terrorist elements might be behind it.
He said the same factory had caught fire twice in the past and despite this the owners made no safety arrangements on the premises. “An insurance claim from the previous fire is also being investigated, including the aspect whether the fire was exacerbated by late arrival of the fire brigade,” he said. “We are also assessing the capacity of rescue personnel and if they had enough water available to douse the fire.”
However, the interior minister lauded the performance of the police, adding that nothing more could be said for sure until the investigation process was completed.
He gave an assurance that the investigation would be transparent and thorough and no one would be harassed in the process.
He made it clear that people responsible would not be spared and would be taken to task.
Mr Malik said he would convene a meeting on Tuesday to discuss different aspects of fire security and strict implementation of the relevant laws.
“The provision of fire safety equipment and exits would have to be looked into,” he said. “We would have to ensure that there is an exit point in every building.”