FIA brings Baldia factory ‘arsonist’ back to Karachi

* SSP says arrest is a major achievement *Bhola's sister says her brother is 'innocent'

FIA brings Baldia factory ‘arsonist’ back to Karachi

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Tuesday brought Abdul Rehman alias Bhola back to Pakistan from Bangkok.

Bhola is among the key suspects of the Baldia factory arson. A joint interrogation team (JIT) is likely to be formed to interrogate him, Daily Times has learnt.

Baldia factory fire was one of the worst incidents in Pakistan's history. Ali Enterprises caught fire on September 11, 2012, which claimed the lives of 259 workers. Though it was initially declared an accident, however, the Baldia factory inferno case took a dramatic turn on February 2015 when a report by Rangers claimed that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement was behind the deadly fire.

Several JITs were formed but they failed to make a major breakthrough. However, the investigators were able to declare it a criminal act after recording the statements of the factory owners.

Following the arrest, the officials investigating the case vowed to formulate a JIT to interrogate Bhola.

"Yes definitely, a JIT would also be constituted to interrogate and investigate Bhola as he is the first key suspect to have directly question," explained Investigation Wing SSP Akhtar Farooq. "With Bhola's arrest we would be able to make more arrests and run the case properly. His arrest is a major achievement."

The FIA team, including Deputy Director Badar Baloch and Inspector Rehmatullah Domki, had reached Thailand on Sunday. They had handed over documents to the Interpol officials for taking Bhola's custody. A member of Pakistani High Commission in Bangkok also assisted the FIA team.

"Yes we have brought him (Bhola) back to city," said Inspector Domki. "He would be produced before an anti-terrorism court (ATC) today (Wednesday) from where he would be handed over to the police." Investigation team headed by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Sultan Khawaja and DIG Munir Sheikh have also recorded the statements of the garment factory owners, Arshad and Shahid in Dubai, who have refused to return to Pakistan. Their statements were recorded both on paper and on camera at the Pakistan Consulate. They had claimed that the fire was not accidental and an extortionist group was behind the incident.

In February this year, a JIT 'reinvestigating' the Baldia factory fire case concluded that it was a "planned sabotage and terrorist activity". The forensic report also confirms that some chemicals were used to set the factory on fire.

The JIT report read, "Based upon available evidence and expert opinions, the JIT has come to conclusion that factory fire was a planned sabotage/terrorist activity and not an accidental fire."

It added that the alleged terrorist act was carried out "due to refusal to pay extortion of Rs 20 crore and partnership in factory profits by factory owners to MQM office-bearers Rehman Bhola and Hammad Siddiqui.

Later, the JIT sought a go-ahead to arrest at least nine key suspects for their alleged involvement in the arson.

On December 11, a suspect, Yousuf alias Gada Gari Wala, was arrested by Tipu Sultan police after an exchange of fire. Media reported that Yousuf confessed that former Baldia Town MQM sector in-charge Asghar Baig was the key suspect in the arson.

When contacted, Inspector Muhammad Zafar said Yousuf neither confirmed nor denied the involvement.

On the other hand, SSP Farooq said that most of the confessions made by Yousuf were proved wrong during the interrogation.

Meanwhile, Bhola's family accused the law enforcers of involving him in a fake case.

"My brother is innocent. He was a political worker and was being punished for his political engagements," narrated his sister. "We are not being allowed to visit our brother and even we are also depending on the media."