Testifying in Baldia factory fire case in Anti-Terrorism Court here, a witness said that the prime suspect Zubair alias Chariya was present at the site as the inferno happened, and was smiling as people burnt alive in the factory. The court was hearing the case of one of Pakistan’s worst industrial disasters in which fire had engulfed a garment factory Ali Enterprises in September 2012. The incident, which claimed 289 lives, was subsequently determined to be an act of sabotage. The court recorded the statements of a police investigation officer and a witness in the Baldia factory fire case and summoned more witnesses at the next hearing on February 20. The witness confirmed that MQM’s activist Zubair alias Chariya was present in the factory when it was set on fire. “He was seen smoking and smiling along with his accomplices at the site”, the witness said. ‘He was seen smoking and smiling along with his accomplices at the site’, the witness said The other witness, a police investigation officer, told the court that the suspects set the factory on fire over extortion refusal. The police officer apprised the court that the suspect had sought Rs200mn extortion from the factory owners. He said that the factory was torched on the directives of than Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Karachi Tanzeemi Committee’s (KTC) chief Hammad Siddiqui and others. The police officer said that MQM’s activist Abdul Rehman alias Bhola had confessed to setting the factory on fire. Earlier, Sindh Minister for Labour Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, on February 15, had backtracked from his statement about giving compensation money to the families of deceased in the horrific incident of ‘Baldia factory fire’. The Sindh government, in its written reply submitted to the Sindh High Court, cited that the distribution of Rs560 million among the victims’ families was only a newspaper report which did not reflect government’s policy. Published in Daily Times, February 17th 2019.