At least 12 people were killed in a crowd crush in Karachi Friday as a Ramazan donation sparked a stampede in the inflation-hit nation, police said. Fida Janwari, a senior police officer in Karachi’s Baldia Town, said the stampede happened when needy women with children flocked to a factory distributing alms. “Panic struck and people started running,” he told AFP. A local administration official said 600 to 700 people were coralled in a small industrial compound. “When they opened the main gate, all the people rushed in,” added 22-year-old Fatima Noor, whose sister died in the crush. The bodies of six women and three children were brought to the Abbasi Shaheed state hospital, spokesman Muhammad Farraukh said. An official for the Rescue NGO told AFP an additional two bodies were sent to another hospital. Asma Ahmed, 30, said her grandmother and niece were among the dead. “We come every year to the factory for the Zakat,” she said, using the Islamic term for alms. “They started beating the women with clubs and pushing them,” Ahmed added. “There was chaos everywhere.” “Why did they call us if they couldn’t manage it?” she asked. Janwari said three factory employees were arrested after failing to inform police of the donation event in order to organise crowd control. In a statement, a spokesperson for Keamari police initially said that 11 people had died while five others had been injured. The spokesperson said the injured had been shifted to the hospital while further investigation was under way, adding that most of the victims were women between 40 to 50 years of age. Later, South Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Irfan Ali Baloch said that another woman had died, taking the death toll to 12. Police Surgeon Dr Summaiya Syed said three children were among the dead. South DIG Baloch said the company used to distribute Zakat and other items among the poor in Ramazan. He said that it was the third day the company was distributing alms, adding that between 400 to 500 people turned up. He said that the factory owner, identified as Zulfiqar, would be arrested soon. Keamari Deputy Commissioner Mukhtiar Abro said that the owner of the factory had not obtained a no-objection certificate from the district administration and had also not asked for security. He said that seven employees had been arrested and a case would be registered against them. He said that the owner would also be held accountable. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah took notice of the incident and sought a report from Karachi Commissioner Muhammad Iqbal Memon. “The administration should be informed about any distribution of ration and welfare work,” the chief minister said and expressed grief over the lives lost in the incident. He directed officials to move the injured to the hospital. Later, Shah announced that the provincial government would give the families of the dead Rs 500,000 as compensation while the injured would get Rs 100,000. Sindh information and transport minister Sharjeel Inam Memon termed the incident “tragic”. Talking to a private TV channel, he said that the factory management did not inform the police and the district administration about the event. The minister appealed to philanthropists and non-government organisations to inform the district administration and the police when undertaking such activities. Memon said that the Sindh government had decided to transfer funds to the needy through the Benazir Income Support Programme to avoid such incidents. PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said the incident was a “practical example” of the country’s economic condition and criticised the provincial government for its alleged indifference. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) released a statement saying it was “deeply concerned by the mismanagement causing stampedes at wheat flour distribution centres set up by the government”. The commission termed the incident in Karachi to be “particularly alarming”. “This situation is adding insult to injury for the marginalised people of Pakistan who are braving the economic injustice perpetuated by the elites who dominate the state,” HRCP said, calling on the government improve the distribution system.