The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday issued notices to the Sindh prosecutor general and others on appeals filed by Muttahida Qaumi Movement activists against capital punishment in the Baldia factory arson case.
Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, and Mohammad Zubair were sentenced to death while the factory’s four gatekeepers — Shahrukh, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad — were sentenced to life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court on September 22 having found them guilty on the charges of terrorism, murder, extortion and setting a private property ablaze.
The appeals were filed by Rehman, Bhola and Ahmed against their convictions. According to the prosecution, the factory was set on fire by Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leaders and activists over the failure of the factory owners to pay Rs250 million in extortion.
The main accused, Rehman, had admitted in a confessional statement that the Baldia garment factory was set on fire on the order of former MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee incharge Hammad Siddiqui over the non-payment of Rs250 million by the factory owners. Around 260 factory workers were burnt alive while many others injured on September 11, 2012, when the factory was set on fire.
The appellants’ counsel said the trial court did not appreciate the evidence brought on the record judiciously and did not discuss the evidence as per the law. The counsel said the appellants had been convicted for demanding extortion although none of the witnesses had deposed that they had demanded money from the factory owners.
The SHC was told that the trial court failed to consider the fact that the factory owners had submitted no application against anyone even after leaving the country. A division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, after the preliminary hearing of the appeals, issued notices to the prosecutor general and state and called record and proceedings of the trial court.