The Karachi (& Lahore) Fire September 2012 – An Overview

17:01:58 local time map of pakistan PAKISTAN

THE KARACHI-BALDIA (& LAHORE) FIRE:

An overview of articles about the fire in Karachi and Lahore. 11 September 2012. In a chronology of time publishing.

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20120912

* At least 73 dead in Karachi factory blaze- fire officer:

20120912
At least 73 people were killed when a blaze engulfed a packed garment factory in Karachi, and dozens of others were hurt as they jumped out of windows to save their lives, officials said on Wednesday.

The evening blaze in the four-story factory in Pakistan’s largest city coincided with another at a shoe plant in Lahore on Tuesday that killed at least 21 people.
“So far we have taken out 73 bodies from the factory and the death toll is likely to rise,” Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim told AFP.

“We are now searching in the basement and there are about 35 fire engines taking part in the firefigthing and most of the fire has been extinguished, but there is smouldering in some parts due to plastic and chemicals,” he added.
“This is the biggest fire in terms of deaths in decades,” he added. read more.

* 100 dead in Karachi garment factory fire:

Rescue workers have pulled as many as 100 charred remains from the garment factory which was gutted by a huge blaze in Baldia town area of Karachi on Tuesday, Express News reported.

Fire department officials said that they had managed to control fire in most parts of the factory and were now trying to recover bodies of the dead from the building.
Express News 
correspondent Nadeem Khan said that Metropolitan Commissioner Matanat Ali Khan has said that there were at least 30-35 bodies still inside the stricture.

Khan added that the factory structure, having been exposed to a sweltering blaze for over eight hours, was now in a precarious condition with cracks appearing in its walls. He added that the building had sagged from one side and rescue officials too had warned that the building could collapse at any moment.
Meanwhile, Governor Sindh Ishratul Ebad has announced a day of mourning in the city on Wednesday. read more.

* Karachi factory fire death toll tops 100:

The death toll in a third-degree fire, that erupted at a garments factory in Baldia Town has crossed 100 Wednesday morning while dozens of workers are still trapped inside and the firefighters are trying to tame the blaze, Geo News reported.

The number of the injured, according to Provincial Minister for Health Dr Sagheer, was around 31.
According to rescue sources a large number of workers are still trapped in the burning factory located on Hub River Road. Women and children are also among the dead and injured.
Hospital sources told that more than 71 bodies were brought to the Civil Hospital while more than 31 were brought to the Jinnah Hospital. The MLO of Civil Hospital told that more than 37 victims were identified and handed over to the relatives of the victims, sources told.

All the firefighting force of the metropolis has been called in to fight out the blaze, which engulfed the factory located in Baldia Town no.2 of Karachi.
Snorkels were being used to bring the people down from the roof of the factory, which has now become a ball of fire. Only, the fire at the top-floor has been brought under control.

Dozens of the workers trapped in the factory jumped down to save their lives and the footage of that has been received by Geo News.
read more.
& read more. & read more.
   

* Geo’s factory fire coverage obstructed:

The owners of the factory have attacked Geo News team threatening them with dire consequences for covering the fire that engulfed the factory putting the lives of hundreds at risk, Geo News reported.
According to initial reports the Geo TV’s cameras were also smashed.
Earlier, fire erupted in a garments factory Karachi trapping dozens of workers.
The blaze, which grew to a third-degree fire has yet not been extinghused.
City’s firebrigade teams are trying to put the flames without much success.
to read.

* Devastating fires in factories, 21 burnt alive in Lahore:

Twenty-one people burned to death and 14 others suffered multiple injuries after a fire broke out in a shoe-manufacturing unit in Shafeeqabad, on Bund Road, here on Tuesday.

The fire, which erupted at around 3:30pm during power outage, also burnt a huge quantity of shoe manufacturing material and plastic shoes, witnesses and rescuers said.
Most of the dead, between 14 and 30 years of age, were labourers from different parts of Punjab who were trapped inside the 10-marla factory because there was only one entry-exit point.
Huge flames triggered panic in the locality.

Presence of people in large numbers on the busy road hampered fire-fighting and rescue activities. Most of them either gathered outside the double-storey factory or rooftops of nearby buildings. read more.

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20120913

* Death toll of Karachi factory fire rose to 289:

20120912 17h Local Time
The death toll from a garment factory fire in Karachi’s SITE area rose to 289 as more bodies were recovered from the gutted building, the city’s top administration official said Wednesday.

“The death toll is 289. This is not final, search for more bodies continues,” commissioner Karachi Roshan Shaikh told AFP.

Karachi city’s police chief Iqbal Mahmood also said rescue teams were still trying to gain access to parts of the factory, which caught fire late on Tuesday, and the death toll could rise.

“We found dozens of people dead in a large room of the factory’s basement. It was totally burnt and parts of it were smouldering, which we put out before shifting the bodies to hospitals,” Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim told AFP.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
     

People gather at the site of the burnt-out Karachi factory. Picture-AP

* Death toll from Karachi factory fire soars:

More than 100 people are now known to have died in a fire at a factory in the Pakistan city of Karachi, officials say.

The fire broke out in the garment factory on Tuesday evening. Many other people were injured, including some who jumped from the burning building.
Some 40 firefighting vehicles were needed to tackle the blaze, an official told local media.
A fire earlier in the day at a shoe factory in Lahore killed 23 people.
The Lahore fire was attributed to a faulty electricity generator. Medical officials said some people had died of suffocation while others were burned alive as the fire took hold. read & see more. video.

* Hundreds killed in Karachi factory inferno:

More than 280 people killed in southern city, with many victims caught in basement with no fire exits and locked doors.

Factory fires in two major cities in Pakistan have killed more than 300 people and injured dozens more, including some who had to leap from windows to escape the flames, officials and survivors have said.
The most deadly blaze broke out on Tuesday night in a garment factory in the southern port city of Karachi, where at least 289 bodies have been recovered so far, according to Roshan Ali Sheikh, a senior government official.
At least 25 others were killed hours earlier in a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore.
Firefighters continued to battle the blaze in Karachi on Wednesday.

Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation as people caught in the basement were unable to escape when it filled with smoke, said the top firefighter in Karachi, Ehtisham-ud-Din. There were no fire exits, and the doors leading out of the basement were locked, he said.
Such safety issues are common throughout Pakistan, where buildings also lack emergency equipment like alarms and sprinklers and municipal rules are rarely enforced.

Workers on higher floors of the five-story building struggled to make it out of windows that were covered with metal bars.

Mohammad Ilyas, a factory worker who was injured as he jumped out of the building, said he was working with roughly 50 other men and women on one of the floors when suddenly a fireball came from the staircase.

“I jumped from my seat as did others and rushed towards the windows, but iron bars on the windows barred us from escaping. Some of us quickly took tools and machines to break the iron bars,” he said. “That was how we managed to jump out of the windows down to the ground floor.” .

Managers run
Sheikh said the factory’s managers had fled and were being sought by police. Authorities have placed the name of the factory’s owner on a list of people who are not allowed to leave the country, he said.

“The owners were more concerned with safeguarding the garments in the factory than the workers,” said employee Mohammad Pervez, holding up a photograph of his cousin, who was missing after the fire.
“If there were no metal grilles on the windows a lot of people would have been saved. The factory was overflowing with garments and fabrics. Whoever complained was fired.”  read & see more. video.

* FIA investigating fire incidents- Malik:

20120912 1240 PKT
Interior Minister, Rahman Malik Wednesday said that the FIA was investigating the factory fires in Karachi and Lahore which occurred almost simultaneously on the same day and will also probe if any element of terrorism was involved in it, Geo News reported.

Talking to the media outside the parliament house, Rahman Malik said that it has to been seen if there was any wrongdoing in the fire incidents in Lahore and Karachi.

On a query he said that 109 complaints relating to missing persons were sent to UN from Pakistan. UN delegation visiting Pakistan on the invitation of the foreign office and they would be taking our viewpoints in this issue. He said that UN mission has neither come for investigation nor it was permitted. We would brief the UN who were these missing persons—some of them are missing over here, but in fact working abroad, he said.
Interior minister said that he would be raising Dr. Aafia’s issue during his next US visit adding that this was our top priority. read more.

* Case lodged against garment factory owners:

20120912 1612 PKT
A case has been lodged against the owners of the garment factory which caught fire on Tuesday evening.

According to Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, the names of the owners has been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).
An investigation committee headed by DIG West has been formed to probe the fire, while the factory’s allotment has been cancelled.
At least 246 people lost their lives when the horrific fire broke out in the garment factory located in the Baldia Town area of the city. to read. & read more.

* 289 killed in Karachi factory fire:

20120912 1918h PKT
289 lives were lost in a horrific fire which engulfed a garment factory located in Baldia Town.

At least 1,000 workers were present inside the factory at the time of the fire to receive their salaries.
Eyewitnesses tell a horrific tale of what transpired in the factory after the fire broke out. Three of the four doors of the factory were closed to avoid theft on salary day and the lights were shut off.
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Production in charge records statement
The production in charge of the garment factory has recorded his statement.
The production in charge in the statement said the fire broke out at approximately 6:30PM on Tuesday.
At 2:30PM the electricity went out at the factory following which the generator located on the ground floor was turned on. When the electricity supply resumed at 6:30PM, two to three explosions were heard from the location where the generator was kept following which the factory filled up with smoke.
The production manager added that after the smoke had filled the filled the factory he came out but people were trapped inside.

MQM announces 3-day mourning
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has announced three-days of mourning on the tragic deaths caused by the blaze in the garments factory.
The decision was taken in a joint meeting of the Co-ordination Committee in London and Pakistan.

CM Sindh announces compensation
Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah has announced compensation for the families of the victims and those who were injured.
Rs300,000 will be given to the families of the victims while Rs50,000 has been announced for the injured. read more. & see video.

* Safety at suppliers responsibility big brands towards workers:

20120912
Devastating factory fires in two of Pakistan’s biggest cities have killed 314 people. Many lost their lives because they could not escape the blazes in buildings without basic safety features.

The horrific death toll highlights the poor state of industrial safety in Pakistan, where buildings are often old and unsafe and where many factory owners work outside the law.
The worst of the two fires, which both began on Tuesday night, was in a garment factory in Karachi. At least 289 people are reported to have died as fire-fighters battled the flames for hours.

The other fire broke out in the eastern city of Lahore, in a four-storey shoe factory. The blaze killed 25 people, some from burns and some from suffocation, local police chiefs said.
The factory was illegally set up in a residential part of the city and fire-fighters said most people died because the main escape routes were blocked.

It was a similar story of blocked exits and lacking safety equipment – like alarms and sprinklers – in the more deadly Karachi fire, one of the worst industrial accidents in Pakistan’s 65-year history.
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According to senior government official Roshan Ali Sheikh, the Karachi factory only had one accessible exit, and all of the other doors were locked. Workers on higher floors of the five-story building struggled to make it out of windows that were covered with metal bars. Many were injured when they jumped from the building, including a 27-year-old pregnant woman who was injured in the fall.

Mr Sheikh said he expects the death toll to rise further as rescuers pull bodies from the wreckage.
“It is a criminal act to lock the emergency exit doors, and we are trying to know who did it, and why?” he added.

“The information we are getting confirms the usual pattern of locked exits, an untrained workforce, barred up windows – and an unnecessarily high death toll,” said Ineke Zeldenrust of the Clean Clothes Campaign.

She said that in many factories across south east Asia there were two key problems: firstly, the substandard buildings which house the factories, and secondly the lack of freedom for workers to speak out about their concerns.

In Pakistan the risks are higher as many businesses are forced to use their own generators to provide electricity to avoid blackouts. A spark from the generator igniting chemicals used in the shoe-making process is reported to have caused the Lahore blaze.
Many workers do not have contracts, so compensation is also an issue – and Zeldenrust said so far this seemed to be the case in Karachi and Lahore.

“On the one hand, there’s a sub-standard building and no respect for safety regulations. On the other there is a climate that is repressing freedom of expression, making it impossible for workers to ensure their own safety,” she said.
At the moment, the Clean Clothes Campaign is trying to ascertain which brands use the factories in their supply chains. read the complete article.

* 21 burnt alive in Lahore, at least 22 in Karachi:

20120912 18.30h LT
At least 22 workers, among them three women, burned to death and over 20 others were injured when a fire broke out in a garments factory in Site area of the city on Tuesday.

The injured were taken to Civil and Abbasi Shaheed hospitals for treatment of burns injuries and smoke inhalation.
Most of them died during treatment at the Burns Centre of the Civil Hospital.

“Fourteen bodies have been kept in Civil Hospital’s mortuary,” said a rescue worker of an ambulance service.
Three charred bodies were taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre because there was not much space left for keeping more bodies in the Civil Hospital.
Sources said the victims brought to the Civil Hospital had serious burns injuries. A large number of women were among the injured.

The fire had broken out on the second floor of the building at around 6pm and was raging till the filing of this report.
A senior fire officer said there were over 1,000 workers in the factory, but most of them had left at 5pm while about 200 stayed back for overtime.
read more.
& read more.  & read more.

* Investigation in factory fire incident:

20120912 23.12 PKT
The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Fayyaz Ahmed Leghari of Sindh Police taking notice of the fire incident occurred in Baldia Town area had formed an inquiry committee under the supervision of Additional Inspector General of Police (Addl. IG) Karachi Iqbal Mehmood.

Moreover, a Senior Member of the inquiry team had termed the blaze as deliberately criminal negligence.

It may be noted here that, on Tuesday evening a huge fire was set ablaze within Ali-Enterprises in SITE-B police remits in which the death toll related to the factory fire has risen to 295 including 17 women, hospital officials and rescue workers said on Wednesday. An unknown fireman also expired during rescue work at the affected factory but, his name and identity was not revealed till filling of this report.

Afterwards the IGP Sindh had called upon a meeting at his office on Wednesday and had formed an inquiry team under the supervision of Addl. IG Karachi Iqbal Mehmood and the members were Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mohammed Farooq Awan, SSP West Amir Farooqi and SSP Investigation West.

The IGP Leghari in his orders said that the members had thoroughly investigate the incident from all angles and also took help from Sindh Police-Forensic Division for technical and scientific assistance to investigate. read more.

* Overall death toll from factory fires soars to 310:

20120913 08.45h LT
More than 310 Pakistanis perished in horrific fires that destroyed two factories in Pakistan, an unprecedented industrial tragedy that prompted calls Wednesday for an overhaul of poor safety standards.

At least 289 people died at a garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city and the capital of Sindh province, just hours after 21 died at a shoe factory in Lahore, close to the Indian border.
In scenes of horror, relatives watched as loved ones jumped from windows of the four-storey building in Karachi where hundreds were working in a bid to escape the blaze, which began late Tuesday.

Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim said rescue workers were facing problems retrieving more bodies from the basement as it was filled with hot water after efforts to extinguish fire.
“There are places in the basement which are still smouldering. Water we used to extinguish the fire has made a pool of hot water in the large area of basement and we are trying to cool it down.”
“There is no electricity in the factory. Our operation has slowed down but we have not suspended our effort.”
read more. & read more reports. & read more reports. & read more.
    

* Workers used sewing machines to smash windows:

Shahzad Ali swung a sewing machine into the window to smash it.

He is one of the 35 injured workers who were brought to Civil hospital from the inferno that broke out in the garments factory off Hub River Road. He jumped from the second floor. He’s been admitted to surgical ward No. 2 where he can’t stop crying. His neck and legs have been injured. He is covered in bandages.

Those who were lucky to get out are haunted by the images of their colleagues being swallowed up by the flames. Bakhtiar Gul, who was a mechanic on the third floor of the adjoining block, remembers waiting for his salary, as it was a pay day. “Suddenly, there were flames and we gathered at the other end of the room,” he said. Alert people outside threw them a rope and he managed to get himself and five to six women out of the room. “Everyone wanted to get out. I saw people behind me on fire,” he said terrified. read more.

* Tragedy: PM asks governor for report on factory fire:

20120913
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf called Governor Latif Khan Khosa from China on Wednesday and asked him to prepare a report on the fire at a shoe factory at Bund Road. Ashraf told Khosa that on his way back from China, he would stop over in Lahore.

Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, the deputy prime minister, lashed out at the Punjab government for not making functional the burn unit the PML-Q government had “established” at Jinnah Hospital when he was chief minister. He said many of the people injured in the factory fire could have been saved had the burn unit been functional.
“How many lives do the rulers of the Punjab want to take?” he asked.

Separately, the Workers Party Pakistan called for Punjab government officials who had abolished labour inspections in 2003 to be held accountable. read more.

* Fire from hell:

20120913
How does one even begin to fathom the magnitude of the tragedy that has hit the nation in the form of two massive fires? Over 20 workers died in a factory fire in Lahore while in Karachi the tragedy was perhaps beyond the grasp of one’s imagination. At the time of writing of this editorial, the death toll was in the lower hundreds and rising, in all likelihood making it the world’s worst factory fire.

The fire broke out on the evening of September 11 and the factory in question is said to have employed over 1,000 people. It took more or less the whole of the following night to put the fire out and it is likely that the rain element played a role in this as well since Karachi experienced heavy rainfall during the nights of September 11 and 12.

The quotes of the men sent to fight the fire, mentioned in various reports including this newspaper, presented a hopeless situation. For starters, Pakistan has little or no concept of fire safety.
Schools rarely have fire drills, unlike in most developed countries, and this means that most Pakistanis grow up with no real awareness of the havoc that fires can cause to them and their immediate surroundings. More specifically, there is no system in the country of fire hydrants, which are used in the West to supply water at high pressure to fire tenders. This is why, whenever there is a massive fire, one hears of fire tenders running out of water — because they have to carry their own supplies with them, which usually do not last all that long. There is also the issue of equipment such as adequate number of snorkels, which allow firefighters to approach high-rise buildings or get close to a structure if the road approaching it is narrow and cannot accommodate a fire tender. read more.

* geo.tv- Full Coverage:

Fire erupts once again in Karachi garment factory
Karachi inferno: factory owner expresses grief over death of workers
PML(N), PTI, ANP call to defer Karachi strike
CM announces 0.3mn for each victim

* Global brands should ensure garment worker safety:

CCC mourns the senseless deaths of at least 250 garment workers who perished in three factory fires in Pakistan and Russia this week.

“These deaths could and should have been avoided”, says CCC International Coordinator Ineke Zeldenrust. “Emergency exits were absent or locked, and workers were trapped. This is the usual pattern: it is well known that many work places are unsafe, and that workers in key producing countries risk their lives on a daily basis producing clothes for Europe and the USA.”

CCC urges brands as well as governments and employers to upgrade the buildings and train workers and management.

Most importantly, they should ensure that workers can freely organize and speak out when safety regulations are ignored. Victims also need to have access to the best possible medical care and to fair compensation. Unions and labour groups in Pakistan have announced major protests today and tomorrow.

CCC is working with partners on the ground to obtain more information, and calls upon all brands sourcing from the suppliers in question to come forward. to read.

* Pakistani factory fire highlights lack of workplace safety measures, says ILO:

More needs to be done to protect workers’ safety and health, the ILO says, as Pakistan mourns the deaths of hundreds of workers in a garment factory fire in Karachi.The International Labour Organization (ILO) has called for national action to protect workers’ health and safety, following the deaths of at least 240 workers in a garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan.

Seiji Machida, Head of ILO’s SafeWork Programme, underlined the need for concrete action to prevent such tragedies. “We were shocked by the news we heard that well over 200 workers were killed in a factory fire today. Protection of workers’ safety and health is a fundamental human right. We need to reinforce measures to protect workers’ lives from hazards in the workplace. We would like to call for national action to improve the protection of all workers,” he said.

According to media reports, many victims were trapped in a basement with no fire exits and locked doors. Most died from suffocation when the basement filled with smoke. Other workers on higher floors rushed to windows to escape but struggled to get out because metal bars blocked their way. Hours earlier, at least 25 people died in a shoe factory fire in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

Tragedies like these, said Machida, are all too common in the region. In 1993, 188 workers, mainly women, died in a toy factory in Thailand.

“Almost 20 years after the tragedy in Thailand, we still see similar disasters. The risk of death or injuries from fire hazards in the workplace, continue to be an important issue. I would like to call for the strengthening of legal and other supporting measures to improve workplace safety and health in all countries, particularly in developing countries. We call for action to realize Decent Work must be safe work for all.”

The ILO office in Pakistan added, ‘We have been highlighting the importance of Safe Work in Pakistan at forums organized with government, employers and workers and encouraging a Labour Inspection regime that protects the workers.” read more.

* Pak factory fires raise question about industrial safety as 310 killed:

Fires swept through two factories in Pakistan, one in the city of Karachi and the other in Lahore, killing at least 310 people, police and government officials said on Wednesday.

At least 280 people died at a garment factory in Karachi, in the worst blaze in decades to hit Pakistan’s biggest city, just hours after 21 died at a shoe factory in Lahore, close to the Indian border.

Dozens of others were hurt in Karachi as they jumped out of windows from the four-storey building to escape the blaze that began Tuesday evening in a bid to save their lives, as sobbing relatives of trapped workers scuffled with police overnight.

The death toll from the fires late on Tuesday is likely to raise fresh questions about industrial safety in the nuclear-armed south Asian nation and draw more criticism of the deeply unpopular government.

The cause of the garment factory fire was not clear. The garment trade is vital to Pakistan’s shaky economy.

According to central bank data, the textiles industry contributed 7.4 per cent to Pakistan’s GDP in 2011 and employed 38 per cent of the manufacturing sector workforce. It accounted for 55.6 per cent of total exports.

Critics say Pakistan’s government is too corrupt and ineffective to focus on the welfare of workers and a dizzying array of other problems, from crippling power cuts to widespread poverty to a Taliban insurgency. read more.

* HRCP asks govt how factories with bad working conditions can operate:

Although the firefighters did a good job, the capacity to fight fires even in the country’s biggest city is questionable at best, said the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) while expressing concern over the death of at least 289 people who died in factory fires in Karachi and Lahore on Tuesday.

They demanded that immediate action should be taken to ensure that safety measures were taken to protect factory workers in the country.

In a statement issued by the commission on Wednesday, they said that although the government had promised to look into the case, many factors which contributed to the fire were common knowledge, including the bad working conditions at such factories. “We already know that due to the lack of multiple exit and entry points, the workers could not escape in time,” said the HRCP. “The factory in Lahore only had one entry-exit point and in Karachi, many workers died because they had to jump out of a four-storey building. Highly inflammable substances were stored inside the building and no safety measures were taken. The situation got worse as there were no fire alarms or fire extinguishers.” read more.

* ‘He was wearing black T-shirt and off-white trousers when he left for work’:

here was no limit to confusion on Wednesday at the mortuaries of the city hospitals where the SITE factory inferno victims’ bodies had been brought for identification.

Families of the victims were running from pillar to post to seek information about their loved ones. It was only after having lost hope for their survival that they decided to steel themselves for sorrow and head for the mortuaries.

Outside the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre’s (JPMC) mortuary were Mohammad Amin and Noor Mohammad looking for their friend Mohammad Shafiq. “We know he is dead as he would have got in touch with us if he had been alive. We are here at the JPMC and three of his brothers are spread out at the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH) and the Edhi morgue at Sohrab Goth,” said Noor Mohammad.

Sitting in a chair at a roadside camp set up in front of the JPMC was Dilawar Hussain looking for his son Asif Aziz. “I have spent the entire night looking for him at the CHK and ASH and now I’m here at the JPMC, but there is no sign of him here as well,” he cried showing his son’s photograph.

“He was wearing a black T-shirt and off-white pants when he left for work on Tuesday.”

A young man waiting beside his motorcycle said that he had found the bodies of his maternal uncle and his son at the JPMC but four of their family members were still missing. “All the six worked in the same factory,” he said. “I’ll go to the other places to look for them there.” read more.

* Protest against death of workers in Karachi garment factory by NTUF:

More than 300 workers were burnt in garment factory named Ali Enterprises on 11th September 2012. Demonstration hold by National Trade Union Federation on 12th September 2012 outside Karachi Press Club.

“Factories in Pakistan more like death trap than the work places, workers are treated more like slave than human being”

It was darkest and saddest day in history of labour movement in Pakistan when more than 300 workers burnt alive in severest accident of fire in a garment factory in Karachi on Tuesday 11 September.

The fire accident at factory was not the first one in this factory or in other factories, its every day phenomenon but unnoticed till the most heinous crime was occurred and get lime light on electronic and printed media. More than 300 worker lost their precious live at the alter of capitalist greed and lust for more profit.

The society is so criminally brutalized in sense no one heed the voices and cries of downtrodden till the uncountable damage and the un imagine miseries inflict upon them. The same is the case with workers at Ali Enterprises ,a garment factory at Hub river road in SITE industrial area Karachi where couple of time fire broke out in past but no government agency took any stern action.
Read more & See Video on YouTube.

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20120914

* Karachi factory fire: Fearing fallout, industry keeps its distance:

The inferno at the Karachi garment factory was contained by Thursday but has left several burning issues behind.

Fearing fallout from the inferno, the export-oriented textile industry tried to keep its distance from the ill-fated factory, but also called upon a thorough investigation of the incident.
“It is a big incident and we cannot ignore it,” said, chairman Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) Shahzad Saleem.
The association has 650 members, and Ali Enterprises, the Karachi factory where 259 workers perished, was a member.

“Our association does not have the power to check every member factory of ours,” Saleem said when asked what PRGMEA does for safety inspections.
“The buyer that places an order with a local company does its own audit of the factory,” he said. read more.

* Survivors narrate nightmarish experience:

“The electricity went off with a sound of a blast, followed by four to five more explosions that filled the entire floor with poisonous gas. There was total chaos as people ran for safety but found no way to escape, because the main entrance and the gate on the second floor were closed,” says Shehzad Ali while narrating how he survived the devastating fire at the garment factory in Baldia.

“How the gates got closed on that day when they always remain open,” wonders 47-year-old Ali, who is currently under observation at surgical ward-II of the Civil Hospital Karachi, believing that the incident is somewhat like a conspiracy.

According to the survivors’ accounts, more than 500 people, including 50 women, were present inside the factory when the fire engulfed the building on Tuesday evening at around 6.30pm, half an hour before its closing time. Luckily, half of the over 1,000 factory employees had already left the premises by that time, some survivors at the hospital tell Dawn.
read more.
& read HUNDREDS SAW HELL ON EARTH: Nation’s worst industrial tragedy.

* Choosing between hazardous work or starvation:

“Everyone has to die one day. People like me will die of starvation if they don’t work,” says a survivor of the Bund Road shoe factory inferno.

“I am ready to resume work in the basement (of the burnt factory) as soon as possible. Everything there is intact,” Khurram told Dawn on Wednesday near the factory gate.

The 22-year-old resident of Ganda Engine Chowk of Gowalmandi was among more than 50 labourers giving final touches to soles in the basement of the factory on Tuesday evening when flames engulfed its upper storeys.

A blast followed by cries of panicked labourers on the upper storeys forced Khurram and his colleagues to come out and subsequently run for their lives.

“I know it is very risky to work at such places. The chemicals used in closed places like this do have health hazards… there is no escape from death in case of a fire but what other option people like me have? Isn’t it better to be burnt alive than to die of starvation,” he argued. read more.

* No killed worker had appointment letter:

Not a single deceased employee of the burnt factory at Baldia, Ali Enterprises had appointment letter and thus no one of them was registered with Social Security, Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution and other as such institutes, The News has reliably learnt.

The majority of victims of the worst fire eruption case in industrial areas in Pakistan’s history were below the age of 35 years. The factory was setup some 12 years ago at the main road of Hub River and officials concerned of Labour Department could not see extreme labour laws’ violation over there. No case was ever registered in some court of law by any government department against this factory which they could have made if some labour inspector had paid the visit of the factory.

The News has got sketchy profile of owner of the factory whose name is reported to be Dr Shahid Bhaila who happened to be in his late forties. He is qualified medical doctor but not practicing medicine anymore due to his business activities.

He is one of the major exporters of garments especially trousers in Pakistan to developed countries and he is the member of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industries besides having membership of Readymade Garments Association of Pakistan. The person in question has business family background and was influential enough to keep authorities concerned silent over labour issues. read more.
                                

* Murder case registered against Karachi fire factory owners:

Police in Karachi have registered a murder case against the owners of a garment factory where a fire killed at least 258 people in the country’s worst ever industrial disaster, officers said on Thursday.

The government has ordered an inquiry and a senior official already told AFP that the two brothers who owned the factory have been barred from leaving the country.
A case has been filed against Abdul Aziz, Mohammad Arshad and Shahid Bhaila and other members of the management of Ali Enterprises, Mohammad Nawaz Gondal, the head of the local police station, told AFP.

“We have registered a murder case against the owners of the factory and several government officials for showing utter negligence to provide adequate security to the factory workers, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people,” Gondal said.
read more.

* Burned alive: Who is to blame?:

The Civil Hospital Karachi was shadowed in a strange silence and gloom yesterday morning. Over fifty ambulances sprawled the space outside the morgue.

Every few minutes a siren blasted from round the corner, and another ambulance made its entry. As a group of anxious relatives surrounded the ambulance, no one spoke. Many families repeated the exercise, till suddenly a cry of horror would break cut the deadly silence like a knife. As each member of the family peeked inside the ambulance, their grief, shock and despair would give way to tears ─ they had identified their loved one ─ only that the victim no longer lives.

They too fell prey to one of the most tragic incident this city has witnessed. The fire broke in a textile factory on Hub River road and could not be controlled even after twelve hours of fire-fighting.

As the ambulances poured in with more dead bodies, there was no more space in the morgue. The burnt victims were left to be identified in the vehicles parked all over the hospital. Grieving families could be seen sitting in the corners wiping their tear-stained faces. Some fainted with the shock and were taken to the Emergency Department for treatment. read more.& read Scenes of horror engulf Karachi.

* They had no chance of survival: Firefighters:

For Feroze Khan, a senior fire brigade official, it was the toughest day of his life.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in 29 years of my career. There have been devastating fires before but so many deaths just boggle the mind,” he said. “They had no chance of survival.”

Twenty-two hours after the fire broke out at the factory, smoke was still coming out of the three-storey building on Wednesday. The heat of the floor burned the feet and the water left by the night-long fire fight simmered. Every few minutes a body would come out, followed by an unconscious rescue worker.

Slippers, a purse and some identity cards were spared by the raging fire. Half-done jeans hung from stitching machines. Blood splattered the washroom on the second floor from where people had attempted to escape.

“Bodies were lying on top of each other in a heap. They must have struggled hard to find an exit,” Feroze Khan said talking about a part of the factory where 100 bodies were found – some charred beyond recognition. read more.

* Industrialists want govt to ensure safety standards:


Rescue workers try to access the top floor of one of the buildings belonging to Ali Enterprises using ladders on fire trucks. The volunteers were reluctant to enter the building since there were fears that it might collapse. They cautiously accessed rooms on the top floor using the roof of the adjacent building.

In view of the blaze at the textile factory, the country’s topmost body of traders and industrialists has called on the government to start a nationwide drive to ensure safety standards at factories.

“This is a huge loss. We want to follow it up until its logical end,” said Haji Fazal Kadir Sherani, the president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) while talking to The Express Tribune on Wednesday.

“We must ask the government how such factories get the clearance from government departments without meeting the safety standards,” he replied when asked about the safety rules prevalent at factories. “The owners are to be held responsible if safety standards are neglected at their factories.”

The incident is not the first. Some factories are located in congested streets where even fire tenders can’t go. “Both the fire incidents of Karachi and Lahore need thorough investigations and we are ready to support the government in this task,” Sherani added. read more.

* City hospitals can treat only 50-70 burn victims at a time:

In case of a massive fire incident on the pattern of Baldia garment factory, Karachi’s tertiary-care hospitals have the treatment capacity for only 60 to 70 burn patients, as the Civil Hospital Karachi alone has a fully-equipped burns centre with trained staff and an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

The News conducted a survey on Wednesday following the tragic fire incident at the garment factory in Baldia, in which over 300 persons were burnt alive, wherein it was revealed that only Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) has a dedicated Burns Centre with a maxim patient capacity of 50.

The other largest public sector hospital in Sindh, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), has no facility to treat burn patients while Abbassi Shaheed Hospital, which is run by the Karachi’s local government, has dedicated a few beds at the Plastic Surgery Ward to treat completely or partially burnt patients. read more.

* Haunted factory throws up human remains:

Rescue workers at the gutted factory wrapped up their operation on Thursday after battling the deadly fire for almost 45 hours.

They recovered limbs and other parts of human bodies from the haunted industrial unit, allowing police investigators and forensic experts to start their job of ascertaining the reasons behind the incident.
A number of area people and relatives of the victims gathered outside the Ali Enterprises, chanting slogans against the ‘slow-paced operation’ by rescue organisations. Many of them entered the building to assist firefighters and charity volunteers.
“We have found a couple of limbs and some parts of human bodies from the building’s basement,” said Karachi commissioner Roshan Ali Sheikh. read more.

* KCCI asks govt to give relief to inferno affectees:

The Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Thursday demanded of the government to provide relief and monetary support to the affectees of inferno at a factory in Karachi.

More than 260 people were burnt and suffocated to death in the incident besides more than dozens of people received burn injuries.
The members of KCCI said there was utmost negligence on part of various government agencies who were responsible to implement safety measures.
Concerned government departments pressurise industrialists on monthly basis to extort money in the name of implementation of rules and do not pay attention in the real implementation. read more.

* KESC waives dues of affected families:

The Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) has expressed its deepest sorrow over the deaths of the workers killed in the Baldia Town factory fire, and announced waiver of all existing and outstanding electricity dues in addition to the supply of free electricity to the affected families for six months.

In a statement issued here on Wednesday, the KESC offered its condolences and deepest sympathies with the families of the victims, most of whom were the breadwinners of their families

The power utility said that the waiver was being made under its Corporate Society Responsibility (CSR) programme to express its solidarity with the aggrieved families and to provide whatever solace it could.
“Since the KESC plays an important role in the lives of city-dwellers, we consider it our social responsibility to offer our support and stand by our consumers during trying times,” the statement said. read more.

* Burnt Karachi factory was not registered: Ministry of Labour report:

Sindh Ministry of Labour has submitted its initial report in the deadly factory fire in Karachi to the Sindh Government on Thursday, Express News reported on Thursday.

According to the report prepared by Director Labour-West Division, the factory had not been registered under the 1934 Factories Act and the organisation had also failed to submit a Letter of Occupation to the concerned authorities.
An organisation is bound to submit a Letter of Acceptance and or Permission Letter to the authorities. read more.

* Karachi fire and after :

The factory fires in Karachi and Lahore, which killed a combined total of over 300 people, were entirely preventable. Had the factory owners complied with existing laws and had local authorities shown any interest in enforcing these, the fires would have been preventable.
It is likely that the fires were caused by a short circuit, which accounts for nearly 50 per cent of all industrial fires and could be reduced simply by updating the obsolete electric supply system in the country. In addition, fire safety laws, which fall under the purview of district and provincial governments, should be refined in the wake of this tragedy to force all commercial and residential buildings and homes to use only fire resistant cables.

As it is, the laws we have on the books should have been enough, had they been followed and enforced, to contain the fallout from the fires. The Factories Act of 1934 (amended in 1997) has an entire section devoted to fire safety. Ali Enterprises, the textile company which owned the factory where the fire took place, is guilty of flouting several laws. According to eyewitnesses, only one exit was open while the rest were fastened. The owner and chief executive officer of Ali Enterprises have been placed on the exit control list but that on its own is not enough. They must be prosecuted and jailed for their negligence and criminality. read more.

* Geo.tv- Full Coverage:

Khi factory fire: 80pc water drained, 2 more bodies recovered
Karachi fire: Relatives risk lives to reach remains

Fire erupts once again in Karachi garment factory
Karachi inferno: factory owner expresses grief over death of workers

To read & See.

* in The News – an overview- updated:

Khi factory fire: 80pc water drained, 2 more bodies recovered

* Around 350 workers were caught by fire and died:

By Nadeem Parwaz General Secretary PTGLWF
We shocked as the reports appeared in media that around 350 workers were
caught by fire and died at the  spot in Karachi Garments Factory
and Lahore shoes Factory.Our hearts are out on the Saded incidents and We are Concerned about the
Prevailing Safety conditions at the Work place in the Factories .
These incidents Speaks in Volume about the implementation of Labour Laws
and rules while performance of relevant departments is also questionable.At this moment Pakistan Textile Garments and Leather Workers Federation
Demands:
1. The Legal heirs of all Workers died during these incident be compensated within seven days.
2. The Workers injured due to that incident be treated on state expenses and compensation be also given to them without delay.
3. A complete and comprehensive survey be conduct to all the factories to determine there measures for safety and fire.
4. Regular inspection by the Labour , Industry , Civil defence , Environment and Building departments be enforced and their periodical reports be made public.
5. Inquiry commission to investigate the both cases of the incident and fixed responsibilities may also recommended minimum requirements for exit points in each and every Factory.

* Pakistan Factory Fires Tied to Criminal Negligence by Government and Employers:

By Khalid Mahmood is the director of the Labour Education Foundation in Pakistan.

At least 289 textile workers in Karachi and 25 shoe makers in Lahore died due to factory fires on Tuesday. This is the biggest loss of worker lives due to factory fires in Pakistan in some decades. The cruel negligence of governments in Sindh and Punjab and also of the federal government has resulted in such a huge loss of lives of the poorest of the poor.

Looking at the factories engulfed with fire on television, I could imagine the working conditions inside these factories, with very small work spaces for each worker, no proper ventilation system, only one exit, no fire safety equipment and an atmosphere full of chemicals. This is the horrifying situation that still exists in many thousand other small factories in Pakistan’s largest cities. Sindh and Punjab are both provinces that have had a ban on the labour inspection of factories until last year. Even still, the labour department officials cannot inspect the factories without prior approval from the employer. In addition, rampant corruption within labour departments deprives workers of their basic rights.

Today, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the Federal Investigation Agency will investigate these factory fires. The irony is that the government is still not upholding its responsibility to implement laws with sufficient political will in order to ensure the protection of workers’ basic rights, including safe working conditions and freedom of association. Instead, the government’s response is to investigate the incident as an isolated, exceptional incident. No doubt it is heinous crime that should be investigated, with responsible persons from employers and government brought to justice; but government should also show a willingness to implement labour laws in their true spirit, and providing sufficient tools and trainings to its officials in order to adequately monitor workplaces.read more.
 

* Death Trap Factories in Pakistan:

-Simultaneous Labor Protests In Four Countries Target Hemisphere’s Largest Supplier of Adidas and Nike-
By Nasir Mansoor Deputy General Secretary of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) of Pakistan.

It was the darkest and saddest day in the history of Pakistan’s labour movement when more than 300 workers were burned alive in Karachi on Tuesday, September 11, in the country’s most severe garment factory fire accident.

The accident was not the first one in this factory, or in other factories. Unsafe working conditions are an everyday phenomenon, which go unnoticed until the most heinous crimes finally capture the media limelight. This week, more than 300 workers lost their precious lives at the alter of capitalist greed and lust for profits.

The Pakistani society is so criminally brutalized that in a sense no-one heeds the voices and cries of the downtrodden until uncalculable damage and the unimaginable miseries are inflicted upon them. The same is the case for workers at Ali Enterprises, a garment factory at Hub River Road in Karachi’s SITE industrial area. The zone is the site of a couple of previous fires in which no government agency took any stern action.
(….)

The NTUF also demanded compensation of PKR one million (US$10,576) for the families of deceased workers and PKR 400,000 (US$4,230) for wounded workers along with free medical treatment. NTUF also demands strict labour inspections of all factories in coordination with worker-representative bodies, the registration of all factories under the Factory Act, the upholding of health and safety laws, the abolishment of the dreaded contracted-worker system, the issuance of appointment letters to all workers at the time of hiring, and registration with social security, old-age benefit institutions, and worker-welfare programs.

The NTUF also appeals to international bodies of workers to put pressure on international apparel brands to force local manufacturers to respect labour laws and workplace safety standards, in accordance with ILO conventions and local laws in the country of production.  read more.
  

* The horror of it all is almost unimaginable:

Over 300 workers burned and suffocated to death in their workplaces, a garment factory and a shoe factory.  
Some died while trying to jump out of windows to safety.
There were no emergency exits, no escape routes.
Not in Victorian England in the 19th century.  Not in New York City a century ago.
But this week, in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
They died in Karachi and in Lahore, making the garments and shoes that you may be wearing right now.
We honour the memory of those lives cut short by demanding justice 
  • an impartial inquiry into what happened – and punishing those at fault;
  • compensation for the families of those killed and injured;
  • and an investigation into the failures of those public authorities who should have been there to ensure the workers’ safety.
The unions in Pakistan are asking us all to take a minute and send off our messages of protest to the Prime Minister.
Please click here to do so now.:

* Make textile factories safe:

Over 300 workers were killed in devastating factory fires on 11 September at a garment factory in Karachi and a shoe factory in Lahore, Pakistan.

Various reports indicate that workers could not escape the fire because the factory buildings lacked basic fire safety standards and emergency exits.

The fire at Ali Enterprises, the garment factory located in Hub river road, Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE) in Karachi killed more than 289 workers. Many of them died of suffocation as they were trapped in the basement. A large number of workers suffered grievous injuries as they jumped from the building to safety.

It is reported that the factory was illegally established and identifying the dead is extremely difficult as the workers were not registered with government authorities nor received written contracts.
In another fire accident at the four-story shoe manufacturing unit at Lahore about 25 workers were killed.

IndustriALL Global Union joins with unions in Pakistan to demand the government pay compensation of five million rupees (53,000 USD) to the families of the workers who were killed, and two million rupees (21,000 USD) to injured workers and that the workers continue to receive their salary.

Unions are also demanding the government arrest the employer and charge him with murder and take action against the labour department and government authorities that failed to ensure the safety and health of these workers.

Send your message in support of these demands to the Pakistan Prime Minister today.
 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
20120916

* Factories in Pakistan more like death trap: traders union:

The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), on incidents of fire in factories, has stated that factories in Pakistan are more like death trap than work places, where workers are treated more like slaves than human beings.

It was darkest and saddest day in history of labour movement in Pakistan when more than 300 workers were burnt alive in severest accident of fire in a garment factory in Karachi on September 11. The fire accident at the factory was not the first one in this factory or in other factories, it has been an every day phenomenon but unnoticed until the most heinous crime occurred and got limelight in the media.

Society was so criminally brutalised in sense that no one paid heed to the voices of the downtrodden until the unimaginable damage inflicted upon them.

The same was the case with workers at Ali Enterprises, a garment factory at Hub River Road in SITE industrial area in Karachi, where a fire broke out in the past as well but no government agency took any action. Majority of the factories in Pakistan were not registered with Factory Act to avoid the rules and regulations and to deny the rights to workers. This factory was also established illegally. It was an export-oriented factory.read more.

* Karachi Inferno: Factory cleared after 41 hours:

20120914
The factory which was gutted in a massive blaze claiming 289 lives was cleared on Thursday morning.

Chief fire officer Ehtishamud Din said the operation continued all the night long and after drainage machines pumped water out of the basement, the building was now cleared after 41 hours.
Talking to a private TV channel, he said the upper three storey had already been cleared, however, the basement that was filled with water became extremely hot as a result of continued 18-hour inferno. The fire officer Ehtisham asserted there is no more dead body left at the factory now. Earlier at night, the second storey of the gutted garment factory caught fire again, however, the fire-tenders brought it under control.
On Thursday morning, the affected families staged protest demonstration as the heavy machinery could not be transported to the blaze site, which delayed the relief work at the basement of the factory. The affected people warned they will themselves drain out the accumulated water after breaking the wall of the factory, if the administration continues to display disregard over the tragedy of so immense proportions. As many as 217 bodies were kept at Edhi Center; of them, 107 have been delivered to the bereaved families after identification process. read more.

* Families of missing workers still looking for bodies:

20120914
Desperate family members of still missing workers were looking for their loved ones in the fire-struck garment factory in Baldia Town on Thursday afternoon, when search for more bodies had almost been abandoned.

It was the third day of the fire, which had erupted in the industrial unit on Tuesday at around 7pm when the three-storey-plus-basement factory was packed with 800 to 1,000 garment workers busy in their respective tasks on jeans being prepared for export.

Among the grief-stricken people were Rafiqunnissa and her family, residents of Baldia Town. The family members, all females, were sitting on a pavement outside the Baldia factory. They were holding photographs of four young women who and an aunt of theirs were believed to be burnt to death in the factory inferno.

“They all were employees of the factory and their male relative Ijaz had managed to get them at one place,” said one of the grieving women, adding that Ijaz had been in contact with the family even after the fire had broken out. read more.

*  Punjab government announces Rs. 3 lacs aid package for victims:

20120914
The leader of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), Mian Nawaz Sharif has announced Rs. 3 lacs aid to the families of those killed in the Baldia Town tragedy, DawnNews reported.

Sharif arrived here on Friday to visit the Baldia Town factory which was the scene of Pakistan’s worst industrial disaster earlier this week.
When he arrived at the site of the incident, PML-N workers displayed disorderly behaviour in order to get closer to their leader. This caused much disturbance during Sharif’s visit.

While speaking to the media at the factory, Sharif said that the government must aid the victims’ families in every possible way. He added that Punjab government shall give Rs. 3 lacs in aid to the victims’ families. read more. & read more.
 

* SHC bails accused:

20120914
Three factory-owners facing murder charges over the deaths of 289 people in a huge fire in Karachi handed themselves in to court on Friday to request pre-arrest bail, their lawyer said.

Workers burned to death or suffocated in the massive blaze that engulfed Ali Enterprises clothing factory, which made ready-to-wear clothes for export to Western retailers, on Tuesday evening.
Police registered a murder case over the fire on Thursday, saying the owners — Abdul Aziz, Mohammad Arshad and Shahid Bhaila — had shown “utter negligence” about workers’ safety.
The trio, who have not been arrested, appeared in the high court in Larkana, 450 kilometres (300 miles) north of Karachi and were granted “protective bail” for eight days, their lawyer Aamir Mansoor Qureshi told AFP.
He said they went to the Larkana court as they feared for their lives in Karachi, the metropolis of 18 million people which came to a standstill on Thursday as a mark of respect for the victims of Pakistan’s worst ever industrial fire.
read more. & read more. & read more.
   

* Court grants bail to factory owners:

20120914
The three factory owners facing murder charges for the deaths of over 250 people in their garment factory fire were granted protective bail till September 21 by the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) circuit bench Larkana on Friday.

Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila had appeared before the court through their lawyer Abid Mansoob Qureshi.
Reports said that the single bench, comprising Justice Hassan Azhar Rizvi, after hearing the application of Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, granted protective bail to them till September 21 for Rs500,000 each.

The court, according to reports, has directed the Interior ministry to place their names on the Exit Control List (ECL), besides ordering the applicants to appear before the investigative officer in Karachi at 9am on Saturday.
The court also directed them to hand over their passports to the reader of the concerned court in Karachi.

Later, talking to the media outside the court premises, Arshad Bhaila said: “I don’t know how the fire started in the factory.”
According to him, the fire started in the warehouse of the factory and as soon as he came to know about it, he immediately called the fire brigade, which took one and half hour to reach the spot. read more.

* “We will prove ourselves not guilty,” say Baldia factory owners:

20120914
The owners of the fire-struck garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town, Shahid Bhaila and Rashid Bhaila claimed they got the bail from SHC in order to record their statements before the concerned authorities investigating the horrific incident.

” We want to be part of the investigation … we will prove ourselves not guilty, ” they added.
Talking to media representatives in Larkana, the owners alleged that despite their repeated calls to concerned authorities the fire brigade reached the site nearly 90 minutes late when entire factory was engulfed by the terrible flames.
They refused the allegation that the doors of the factory were locked.

Bhalia brothers revealed that they were present at the site till late at night but were threatened by somebody to leave the site adding they avoided to reveal the names of those persons.
They said that they were equally shocked over the sad incident and would not leave the families of fire victims alone in their grief and trouble. read here.

* Baldia Town factory owner alleges fire brigade arrived:

20120914
Arshad Bhaila, one of the owners of the factory, which became an infernal deathtrap for its hundreds of workers Friday bewailed the loss of precious lives, Geo News reported.

Talking to Geo News, after a court here granted him and other owners of the factory protective bail for eight days, Arshad claimed the fire first broke out in the warehouse and he himself called the fire brigade, which arrived about an hour and a half late.
Not only the firemen were late but they were also reluctant in extinguishing the fire blazing in the storage area and the main entrance, he alleged.

Arshad disclosed that, on that tragic day, he and his brother Shahid stayed put in the burning factory till midnight and did not leave until “someone” warned them to get out of there.

He however refused to disclose who that mysterious “person” was.
“I know that person very well but my tongue is tied”.

To a question he said that they got themselves bailed to share the grief of their deceased workers families.
“My workers were like my own flesh and blood”, Arshad said. read more.

* Sindh CM orders probe into garments factory fire incident:

20120914
Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Qaim Ali Shah has ordered a thorough investigation into Karachi garments factory inferno killing around 300 workers. including female workers and for submission of the detailed report within next three days.

Shah, on behalf of Sindh government, announced to give Rs 0.3 million each for the deceased and Rs 50,000 each for the injured along with proper treatment on the Government expenses.

It is very necessary to fix the responsibility for this worst tragedy and learnt about the causes. The factory owners must come on the surface and play active part in the investigation otherwise they would be held totally responsible and taken to task, the chief minister said while talking to media during his visit to garments factory in SITE area, here on Thursday.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) member of National Assembly and president PPP Karachi Division Abdul Qadir Patel, Sindh Ministers Rafiq Engineer, Nadeem Bhutto and Haji Muzaffar Shujra, and Special Assistants to the CM Rashid Hussain Rabbani, Waqar Mehdi and Siddique Abu Bhai, and Commissioner Karachi Roshan Ali Shaikh, Administrator Karachi Metropolitan Corpo-ration Muhammad Hussain Syed were also present. read more.

* Factory fire highlights risks for workers:

20120914
The death of 289 workers in a devastating factory fire has highlighted Pakistan’s dismal approach to industrial safety and raised fears for the clothing sector vital to the nation’s struggling economy.

Western companies buying Pakistani garments and textiles are likely to scrutinise their suppliers’ working practices more closely after Tuesday’s disaster and there have been promises of a clampdown from officials in Karachi.
But in a fiercely competitive global market, analysts warn factory owners face a difficult dilemma, as higher safety standards means higher production costs.
Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and commercial heart, has around 10,000 factories on seven industrial estates, according to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).
On top of that, there are at least 50,000 cottage and small industries in the informal sector based in residential areas.
Fahim Zaman Khan, Karachi’s former top administrative official, told AFP that Ali Enterprises, the factory destroyed in Tuesday’s blaze, was typical of many units in the city.
“There is not a single factory in Karachi, which is different in shape and facilities as the one gutted by the fire. Everyone, including our rulers, could see similar factories nearby the gutted one but avoid to take action,” he said.
Police records show Ali Enterprises exported ready-made garments to North America and Western Europe, though it is not clear which brands or chains were supplied. read more. & read more.
 

* Geo.tv- Full Coverage:

Khi factory fire: Sindh industry minister resigns 
Karachi fire: Factory owners granted interim bail

Karachi fire: garment factory sealed off

Karachi Fire: 177 bodies handed over to families
PM for Karachi fire victim families help

Karachi Fire: Three DNA camps setup

NA adopts resolution for commission on Lahore, Karachi fires

Karachi fire: security guard among ten apprehended for probe

Karachi fire: Factory owners appear before police

Karachi fire: MQM leaders to donate a month’s salary

Khi Fire: Factory owners shifted to unknown location

* Fire not caused by generator explosion, say investigators:

20120915
In the first such finding during the course of investigation into the deadly factory fire, police officials on Friday ruled out the possibility that the fire was caused by a generator explosion, dismissing the earlier speculation and leaving several questions unanswered about the deadliest incident that has so far been seen as an accident.

The investigators, who are busy connecting dots to find the cause of the fire that killed more than 250 people on three floors of Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town along the Hub River Road within hours, found little success while decoding the CCTV (closed-circuit television cameras) footage installed on the first floor of the industrial unit.

“We have prepared a preliminary report of our findings so far,” said Muneer Sheikh, AIG forensic division.
“After a thorough examination of the building and its infrastructure coupled with wiring and other stuff, it is clear that there was no generator explosion.”
“All the generators are intact and safe,” he added. read more.

* Factory owners shifted to unknown location:

20120915
After appearing in a police station here the proprietors of the ‘holocaust factory’, which became a homicidal gas chamber for hundreds of workers, have went underground in the tightest of state securities, Geo News reported.

Earlier, the owners of the factory Abdul Aziz Bhaila, Arshad Bhaila, and Shahid Bhaila showed up in SITE-B Police Station to have their statements recorded, which they could not as the officer concerned was out of his office.

A new development in the case is a letter written to State Bank of Pakistan to freeze the accounts of the accused factory owners.
According to SP Investigation West, Saqib Sultan, the accused have been shifted to an unknown location to ensure no untoward incidents came in the way of justice.
Sultan added that standard investigation procedure would be employed in the case of factory owners who face murder charges under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). read more.read more.
     

* Fire tragedy: Is a resignation enough? :

20120915
The resignation sent in by Sindh Minister for Industries Abdul Rauf Siddiqi, after a factory inferno in Karachi killed a record number of workers, should be welcomed. More than anything else, this resignation will serve to highlight the administrative flaws in the services meant to forestall fires and undertake rescue operation after the blaze has taken hold.

The self-exonerating statement issued by the minister says that he found himself “helpless and with no authority to move against the people responsible for the deadly Karachi factory fire”. While it is a welcome break from the practice of not allowing the buck to stop anywhere and letting the citizens suffer without holding anyone responsible, one might still ask: why resign after the fact; why not walk out after the first feeling of ‘helplessness’?

Mr Siddiqi put his finger on the real cause of the tragedy: “Two key institutions — civil defence and the labour department — which are responsible for safety measures and labour rights are not under my authority and I was compelled to see people dying in the fire”.
The two departments that his ministry was in a way subordinated to are the most poorly handled institutions in the country. Nowhere in Pakistan has the industries minister ever done anything to remove this roadblock. Mr Siddiqi, too, did nothing, but to his credit, he has resigned to put the nation on notice that all provinces need to sort out the decades-old bottleneck that haunts emergencies caused by accidents and fires. read more.

* Rehman Malik rejects initial report on factory fire:

20120916
Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday rejected the preliminary report on the Karachi factory fire adding that the element of terrorism behind the incident could not be ruled out and that other aspects into the incident were being examined, DawnNews reported.

While talking to media persons during his visit at the site of the tragic factory fire, Malik said that there was no confirmation in the report about the generator or boiler of the factory exploding and that simultaneous incidents of  fire at factories in Lahore and Karachi could be an act of terrorism.

Malik said that the factory had caught fire twice in the past and yet the owners made no safety arrangement adding that an insurance claim for a previous fire at the factory was also being investigated. read more. & read more. & read more.
 

* Governor assures aid, jobs to fire-affected families:

20120916
Steps are afoot in collaboration with traders to provide financial support and employment to the affected families of Baldia Town fire tragedy, while a strategy is also under consideration for avoiding such mishaps in the future.

This was assured by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan at a ceremony held to hand over three buses to Karachi Medical and Dental College (KMDC here on Saturday.
He said that laboratories would soon be established for DNA tests which would be helpful in identification of the corpses. read more. & read more.
 

* Fire victims remembered:

20120916
Political, social and trade union activists on Saturday held a procession on The Mall to mourn the loss of around 300 lives in Tuesday’s fires in Lahore and Karachi factories.

Leaders from the Pakistan People’s Party, Labour Party Pakistan, Awami Party, Workers Party, National Trade Union Federation, Women Workers Helpline, Progressive Youth Front, National Students Federation and Labour Education Foundation gathered and observed a two-minute silence in remembrance of the deceased labourers. read more.

* PRGMEA demands impartial inquiry into factory fire:

20120916
Pakistan Ready-made Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) requested the government to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the tragedy of fire incident in Baldia Town and take the culprits to task, may it be the owners of the factory, the governments agencies, terrorists, bhatta mafia, etc, as is currently being conjectured in the country and measures should be put in place that such an incident never occurs again.

While offering the heartfelt condolences and regrets to families of all the people who lost their lives in the terrible incident in the factory PRGMEA office bearers and members prayed that God gives the families of this tragedy the strength to bear this immense loss and those injured pray for their speedy recovery. PRGMEA requested the government to form a public/private committee to examine how such incidences can be avoided in the future and a policy should be formulated on their recommendations and implemented in letter and spirit. read more. & read more.
 

* Fires and shrinking exit doors:

20120916
We should begin by offering our thoughts and condolences to the loved ones of those who passed away in the horrific fires in Lahore and Karachi.

I do not possess any expertise on the subject of fire safety to make an elaborate comment.
However, someone has failed to do their job and we should insist on not only that investigation reports be made public and heads roll, but also a larger debate of worker safety and industrial regulation be conducted.
It is said that when a fire breaks out, there is sometimes not enough panic at the beginning and people suffocate when they could have saved themselves because they are too calm. In the alternative, as is likely to be the case in the recent fires, the exit door/s is inadequate.

As the fires in Karachi and Lahore burnt, there was some expression of outrage on the arrival of the UN Mission on Enforced Disappearances in Balochistan.
The lack of panic and the shrinking size of the exit door are useful, perhaps, unavoidable metaphors here.
There is some panic now, but not on the murder and strangulation of human rights in Balochistan. No marks for guessing, it is for our favourite blanket objection to everything; the perceived breach of our “sovereignty”.
It seems everyone important is refusing to talk to the UN Mission since we do not like them meddling in our domestic disputes.
This talk of sovereignty and isolation sounds unpersuasive coming, immediately after the 9/11 anniversaries (both the tragedy in New York and martyrdom of Salvador Allende), the murder of an ambassador for a mediocre, insensitive movie made thousands of miles away, and a controversy about the veracity of a telephone interview allegedly conducted by a US channel with a prisoner in heavy security in Pakistan. To put it simply, isolation is not a choice or even possible. read more.

* If the fire hadn’t killed them, lung disease might have:

The workers of the ill-fated garments factory, where a massive blaze killed almost 300 people, already faced the risk of dying in a few years as they were exposed to the hazards of manual sandblasting denim being practiced there, The News has learnt.

Sandblasting is used to gives jeans and other clothing a distressed, already-worn look. The technique has long been banned in many European countries and the US as it causes an incurable form of lung cancer.
Manual sandblasting involves firing minute particles of silica on high pressure at denim. Factory workers, who inhale the silica dust, are in danger of developing silicosis, a potentially fatal pulmonary disease.

The Clean Clothes Campaign, an international pressure group, has been running a drive to ban sandblasting in the production of denim garments.
It says that the technique is being practiced in developing countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“Garments for a European brand were processed at the fire-hit factory,” Nasir Mansoor, the deputy general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), told The News.
“The authorities concerned should investigate this and sue the European brand in an international court of law for having its products manufactured here without taking the working conditions at the factory into consideration.” read more.

* Pakistani factory struck by fire believed to supply European market:

  • Clean Clothes Campaign calls on brands sourcing from Pakistan to undertake immediate reviews of their suppliers.
  • Ali Enterprises reportedly supplied the European market.
  • CCC warns that similar disasters could happen again if the root causes of these fires are not addressed urgently.

Information emerging from Pakistan today suggests that the Ali Enterprise factory in Karachi, which burned down on Tuesday killing over 300 workers, was supplying goods to the European market. The Clean Clothes Campaign is now calling on all brands and retailers sourcing from Karachi to undertake immediate reviews of all their suppliers.

Fire ripped through two different factories , killing over 300 workers on what unions have described as the ‘darkest day in the history of the Pakistan labour movement’. Pakistani unions are now calling for the arrest of the factory owner of Ali Enterprises. Demands are also being made for government officials who have acted negligently to be prosecuted.

Early reports suggest between 650 and 1000 workers were working in the Ali Enterprises factory at the time the fire broke out.  There was no fire fighting equipment inside the factory.
The high death toll has been attributed to the fact that workers were trapped inside the factory. Only one fire exit was available, windows on most of the floors were barred and stairways were blocked.
A number of workers were killed jumping from windows. It is believed many more workers died of suffocation in the basement after it became flooded with water. Unions say identification of the dead workers has been hindered by the fact that workers did not have a contract.

The National Trade Union Federation in Karachi state that although the high death toll at Ali Enterprises had led to extensive coverage of the fire, this is not an isolated incident but a regular occurrence in an industry that is poorly regulated and largely non unionised.

CCC also insists that the fire  follows a pattern of negligence occurring not just in Pakistan but throughout the garment industry. read more.

* ILO announces action plan to boost workplace safety in Pakistani factories:

ILO sets out a series of short and medium-term measures in response to the deaths of more than 260 workers in a garment factory in Karachi. 
The International Labour Organization has pledged to support the families of the victims of the Karachi garment factory fire and announced a plan to strengthen workplace safety,to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future.
Francesco d’Ovidio, ILO Pakistan country director, flew to Karachi on Friday and held a meeting with Dr. Ishrat Ul Ebad Khan, Governor of Sindh Province. D’Ovidio expressed his condolences on the death of so many workers and outlined how the ILO will help victims’ families and the Sindh Labour Department.
“In this tragedy, the ILO stands ready to provide support to the victims’ families, help them recover from their loss and strengthen the Sindh Labour Department to prevent a re-occurrence of such incidents in the future.
The ILO is ready to offer immediate- and medium-term assistance, including skills training scholarships to members of the victims’ families and link them with decent jobs,’ D’Ovidio said.‘We will help enterprises put in place a safe work culture in workplaces through the rapid training of labour inspectors in Sindh,’ he added.Dr. Khan welcomed ILO’s support and solidarity and said it will help the government’s efforts to address the tragedy.“ILO’s support to strengthen the Department of Labour to prevent re-occurrence of such incidents in the future is most welcomed,” he said.When the fire broke out, many workers were trapped because there were no fire exits and because windows were barred.
The ILO is calling for the restoration of labour inspections in all factories and will help build the capacity of Sindh Labour Department in order to improve inspections.
It will also help employers and workers develop a code of conductand will promote the idea of self-regulation by employers.
read more.

* Deadly Denim: Workers Burned Alive Making Jeans for Export:

By International Labor Rights Forum

You have ruthless buyers sitting in the U.S. who don’t care what you do, as long as you do it on time… We take a hit every time we’re late. That means lost margins. That means we do what we need to do to make our orders, fast. This factory owner may have been working extra shifts just for that purpose…

Ali Ahmad, Owner of Nizam Textiles in Karachi, Pakistan

In the aftermath of the deadly factory fires in Pakistan on September 11, 2012, Pakistani unions have called for the factory owner and local government officials to be held accountable.
ILRF expresses our deep sorrow for the pain, suffering, and loss of life caused by the owner’s, the buyers’ and the government authorities’ unconscionable neglect.
We stand in solidarity with the workers of Pakistan, and support the demands of the unions.
We also call on the brands and retailers that together buy $11 billion of Pakistani apparel each year to take responsibility for making Pakistani factories safe for workers.

More than 300 trapped workers were killed in two separate fires on the same day—289 workers in an apparel factory in Karachi and 25 workers in a shoe factory in Lahore—a day Nasir Mansoor, leader of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan (NTUF)—calls the “darkest and saddest day in the history of Pakistan’s labor movement.
”The Karachi factory, Ali Enterprises, operated illegally, without proper registration.
When fire broke out—reportedly for the fourth time within two years—more than 600 workers were trapped.
The main sliding door was locked to protect the merchandise; windows were barred with iron grills; stairs and doorways were blocked with piles of finished merchandise; and there were no emergency exits.
None of the workers had appointment letters and most of them were contract employees hired by a third party.  As contract workers they were not entitled to social security or workers’ compensation.
None of these workers had the security to voice their fears about the risky working conditions they found themselves in.
read more.

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20120917

* Baldia blaze Statement of factory owner recorded:

The owner of a factory destroyed in a devastating fire, which left over 250 workers dead, in their statement recorded by police on Saturday sought to dispel the impression that the industrial unit had only one exit and rejected reports about its ill-designed architecture.

The statements recorded by the police investigators put a question mark over the response time of the city’s rescue organisations and their capacity to meet such challenges.

Apart from the criminal investigation being carried out by the Site-B police station, the Sindh IG-assigned special investigation team to determine the cause of the deadly fire and elements attached with the incident moved a little forward by recoding the statements of survivors and collecting ‘more pieces of evidence’ from the haunted factory. read more. & read more.
 

This photograph shows an undamaged area of a garment factory following a fire in Karachi on Sept 12, 2012. — Photo by AFP

* Four days late: PM flies into Karachi to review factory fire:

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf flew over the burnt Baldia Town factory, terming Pakistan’s largest industrial accident a national tragedy.

Visiting the site in a helicopter, almost four days after the incident, Ashraf did the customary, an announcement of compensation for the victims’ heirs.
The prime minister then presided over a meeting at the Governor House, which was attended by police officials, commissioners, deputy commissioners and cabinet members of Sindh government. The meeting briefed the prime minister about the incident in which over 250 workers had lost their lives as well as on the damaged caused by the recent floods in the province.

According to a governor house spokesperson, the prime minister announced Rs0.4 million as compensation for families of the dead, and Rs0.1 million for the injured, in the fire and floods, after Dr Ebad requested the premier to announce compensation on behalf of the federal government. read more. & read more.

* Sabotage can’t be ruled out in factory fire: Interior Minister:

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Sunday that the possibility of sabotage in the Karachi garment factory fire that killed at least 259 people cannot be ruled out.
Talking to media during his visit at the site of the tragic factory fire on Sunday, Malik said that there was no confirmation in the report about the generator or boiler of the factory exploding and that simultaneous incidents of fire at factories in Lahore and Karachi could be an act of terrorism.
He said terrorists are bent upon destroying peace in Karachi, where political, sectarian attacks and bomb blasts have killed hundreds of people in recent months.
“The investigators will look at the intentions behind the incident and the possible involvement of the people,” Malik told reporters at the site of the factory.
Malik said that the factory had caught fire twice in the past and yet the owners made no safety arrangement adding that an insurance claim for a previous fire at the factory was also being investigated. read more. & read more.
  

* Baldia factory fire: 13 workers in police custody for questioning:

The police have picked up 13 factory workers for questioning as part of investigations into the Baldia factory fire.

A raging blaze had swept through the garment factory on Tuesday night and claimed the lives of 258 people. The CCTV footage from inside the factory has initially indicated that the fire appears to have broken out from a spark in electric wires.
“We have arrested about 13 people, mostly security guards and other staff, because there was so much talk about the doors being closed,” SP Amir Farooqi told The Express Tribune.

The officer said that he didn’t want to divulge too many details of the investigation as they may clash or compromise the other inquiries taking place at the same time.
When asked whether the government has been cooperating with the investigators, Farooqi replied in the affirmative but said that no one has really come forward to help.

Two days ago, the police had asked the State Bank to freeze the factory owners’ accounts, which according to police officials have Rs500 million. The request has, however, not been entertained so far. read more.

* Fight for rights: Safe working environment for workers demanded:


Protesters vowed to continue their efforts for safety of workers. PHOTO: THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE

Following the tragic fires in Karachi and Lahore that killed nearly 300 workers this week, a much-need demand for workers’ safety came from leftist parties on Friday.

Scores of political activists, trade unionists and students held a demonstration led by Workers’ Party Pakistan (WPP), Awami Party Pakistan (APP) and Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), and slammed anti-workers policies that were going unchecked due to apathy on the part of the government.
They demanded accountability for those killed in the twin fires.

“The fight for rights will continue as long as people will remain deprived,” was the slogan that echoed at Aabpara Chowk, where demonstration was held without any traffic disruptions.
“Preventable disasters such as these reflect a lack of political will to protect the basic rights of the working class,” said Aasim Sajjad of the WPP.

He said that all the gains of trade union movement to improve wages and working conditions for workers after decades of struggle have been repealed in recent years at the insistence of Pakistan’s creditors, who demand establishment of an “investment-friendly” business environment. read more.

* Geo.tv- Full Coverage:

* Rs20m AWT package for Khi fire victims:

Alamgir Welfare Trust (AWT) has, in an initial response, started providing help to the victim families of Baldia Town factory inferno with Rs20 million worth of food supplies and other essentials.

Shakeel Dehalvi, the spokesman for AWT said that registration of the affected families is underway at an emergency camp set up at the Trust’s central office. The families are getting themselves registered at the camp from 9am to 6pm daily.
read more.

* Workers’ safety: Leftists protest lax enforcement of regulations at factories:

 Over a hundred progressive political workers, students and trade union members on Saturday marched from the Charing Cross, The Mall, to the Lahore Press Club to protest against lax enforcement of health and safety regulations in factories.

Speakers at the rally demanded immediate arrests of the owners of the two factories in Lahore and Karachi where fires had killed more than 300 workers. Farooq Tariq, Labour Party Pakistan federal committee member, criticised the departments of labour and manpower of the two provincial governments for what he said was their collusion with factory owners in following anti-workers policies. He expressed solidarity with the families of workers who lost their lives in the two fires, saying that progressive political parties would keep taking to the streets until the factory owners were put behind bars. He also demanded worker-friendly revisions to the Factories Act and other labour-related laws. read more.

* Our poor factory workers:

“Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to reveal a social disaster.”— Jim Wallis

People matter in Pakistan only during polls or when they are killed in hundreds. On September 11, the death of 300 workers in Lahore and Karachi shook the country. Even those who had never mentioned a single word about the well-being of toiling workers are now trying to champion their cause.

But soon, they will forget all that they have said. They will instead shelter those who are responsible for such tragedies. How many factory owners belong to ruling parties and how many political parties are controlled by industrialists, who not only violate labour laws but also safety and hygiene standards? They blatantly violate rights of the workers who generate profits for them. They neither allow independent unions to function in their factories, nor do they fulfill their legal duty on their own. I have had personal experience of working with the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM), which has been fighting for the rights of powerloom workers in Faisalabad, Jhang and Toba Tek Singh since 2003. Most factories in these areas have poor safety and hygiene standards. In the last two months, 25 workers were reportedly electrocuted to death in these areas.

Despite the LQM’s campaigns, most factory owners refused to improve working conditions in their factories. They were not willing to issue social security cards to workers and old age benefit contribution to the Employees’ Old-Age Benefit Institute (EOBI). When the LQM built pressure on them, the Punjab government formed Industrial Police Liaison Committees in Faisalabad in order to scare-off workers. Since then, the unholy nexus of the police and industrialists has become very strong. On minor demands, workers are put in lock-ups and charged under anti-terrorism laws. Currently, seven LQM members are serving a combined sentence of 492 years under the anti-terrorism laws. They did not kill anyone.  read more.

* Comment: The silence of the urban industrial elite:

It turns out that what it takes to silence the loudest lobby in the country is a fire, and the deaths of hundreds of innocent workers. The textile lobby, which ordinarily seems to never run out of ways to tell the country how it is indispensible to the economy, has been rendered mute by the fire in Karachi. Their silence is deafening.

Despite the glare of the media on the fire at Ali Enterprises, much is still unknown about the conflagration, how it started and who shares how much blame. But as journalists try to find out more about the fire, the factory and its owners, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: nobody who knows anything about these people is willing to say anything.

Indeed, virtually every person affiliated with the textile industry who spoke to The Express Tribune claimed to not know anything about the factory, what it produced or which European brands it sold to. This is the kind of information that, before the fire, would have taken our reporters less than a few hours’ worth of investigating to find out. But after the fire, an invisible memo seems to have gone out to the textile industry’s magnates: stay quiet or they will lynch you.

Indeed, the few people who did say anything felt the need to remind us that this fire will damage Pakistan’s exports. That nearly 300 people died a horrific death in the factory seemed, at best, a parenthetical concern for them. read more.

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20120918

* Malik sees terrorism behind inferno: Record shows factory had 255 workers:

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. read more. & read more. & read more.
   

* Garment factory: Karachi factory partially insured with Reliance:

The Karachi garment factory where 259 people were killed by a massive inferno was partially insured with the Reliance Insurance Company – the same firm that is yet to pay hundreds of millions of rupees in compensation to families of the Bhoja air crash victims.

According to an industry official, Reliance Insurance Company had insured 70% of Ali Enterprises’ assets, whereas the remainder were secured by Premier Insurance.
“The plant was heavily underinsured,” the official added. “Only Rs80 million will be paid to the owners for the destruction of their property, including the plant and machinery.”

Surveyors of the insurance company visited the factory on Thursday to assess the damage.
The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, raising doubts over the repayment of the meagre amount to the factory owner, the official said.
No official from the two insurance companies or Ali Enterprises was available for comment. read more.

* Factory owners directed to install fire safety mechanism:

The Rawalpindi Commissioner has directed all the owners of factories, government and private offices, mills, educational institutions, bus stands and shopping centers in the Rawalpindi division to install modern fire extinguishing instruments in their buildings within two weeks.

After the tragic fire incidents of Karachi and Lahore, all the factories, government and private offices, mills, educational institutions, bus stands, academies, storage areas and shopping plazas of the Rawalpindi district, along with three other districts of the division, had been served notices to install fire extinguishing mechanism within their premises. The commissioner also asked the major industrial units and owners of other buildings to provide emergency exit facilities in their buildings to avoid any untoward incident. He warned the owners that failure to comply with the instructions would result in heavy fines and even closure of their buildings.to read.

* British firm diverts export order to Dhaka in protest against factory tragedy:

A British firm has diverted millions of dollars worth of export order of garments from Pakistan to Bangladesh on Saturday in protest of Karachi factory’s fire incident that took the lives of nearly 300 workers this week, reported a participant at the Jang Forum.

“A British woman, who had travelled all the way from UK to Pakistan to place an export order of garments worth millions of dollars, left the country without doing so in protest of the Karachi tragedy,” said Muhammad Javed, who is a social worker and a former politician from Peshawar.

He said that she had travelled to Dhaka, Bangladesh to place the same order after she received a phone call from her principal officer from the UK. “She had a scheduled flight to Dhaka at 4pm today,” he added.
Two speakers at the forum – Ahsanullah Khan, chairman of Workers Employers Bilateral Council of Pakistan and Engineer MA Jabbar, former chairman of SITE Association – were of the opinion that Pakistan could see more cancellation of exports’ orders, especially in the garment sector. read more.

* Pakistan fire victims producing for German low-cost retailer KIK:

  • Labels from German brand KIK found in factory
  • KIKfailed to respond to calls for action
  • Campaigners call for brands to take immediate action

The Clean Clothes Campaign today express their shock and outrage at the failure of German company KIK to ensure that workers in its supplier factories are employed in safe working conditions after it was confirmed that Ali Enterprises, which last week burnt down killing almost 300 people, was producing jeans for the low-cost retailer.

Around 650 workers were working at the Ali Enterprises factory when the fire broke out last Tuesday. Locked fire exits, barred windows and blocked stairways meant almost half of them perished. Many others were injured after jumping from the top floor of the building. The factory was not legally registered and had not undergone any building checks or government inspections. The owners of the factory have now been charged with murder, although they have yet to be apprehended by the authorities. The National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan is now also calling on authorities to look at charging KIK and any other confirmed buyers from the factory with criminal negligence.

“These workers lost their lives in the most horrific manner producing jeans for European customers” said Lars Stubbe of the German Clean Clothes Campaign. “That KIK has failed to respond with any remorse or urgency highlights the total lack of respect and care they have for the workers employed in their supply chain.”

Over the weekend garments were recovered from the factory carrying the ‘Okay’ logo, a label produced and sold in KIK stores in Germany, Austria and across Eastern Europe. To date the company has failed to take responsibility. read more.

* Baldia factory inferno : JC told factories registration not mandatory:

A Judicial Commission (JC), headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, on Monday directed forensic experts, concerned officers from Sindh Electric & Energy Department, Labor Department, Provincial Electrical Inspector and Chief Fire Officer Karachi to appear on September 18, 2012 along with their respective reports regarding causes of fire at the Baldia Town garment factory that killed nearly 289 people.

The commission also recorded statements of four witnesses including Director Labour Department, Commissioner SESSI, Secretary Sindh Workers Welfare Board and Sindh Building Control Authority officers.

On September 12, 2012, Sindh government had constituted the commission with mandate to investigate the fire that broke out in M/s Ali Enterprises, look into cause of fire, kind of civil defense system available inside the factory building and extent of negligence on the owner’s part.

Recording his statement, Director Labour Department Ejaz Baloch informed various factories including M/s Ali Enterprises garment factory, had not been registered with Sindh Labor Department for last 20 years.

He also submitted Labour Department’s Inspectors could not conduct raids for inspection of any factory, as an Inspector, who conducted surprise raid at a local factory for inspection, was subjected to torture by the factory management some years ago. read more.

* Investigation reports on Karachi inferno to be filed today:

Forensic experts, electrical inspectors and fire officials are expected to submit their findings for the fire at the Baldia garment factory today (Tuesday).

A judicial commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, directed the officers on Monday to appear on September 18 along with their reports into the possible causes of the fire that killed 258 people. On September 12, the Sindh government had formed the commission to investigate the causes of the blaze at Ali Enterprises, the kind of defence system inside the factory and the extent of negligence on the part of the owners. On Monday, the director of the Sindh labour department, Danish Saeed, the commissioner of the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI), the secretary of the Sindh Workers Welfare Board, Muzaffar Bhutto, and officers of the Sindh Building Control Authority recorded their statements before the commission. read more.

* Fire dept’s report on Baldia factory blaze is ‘laughable’, say civil society groups:

Fearing that the public reaction to the Baldia factory inferno will fizzle out like that generated by other tragic incidents such as the collapse of the Shershah Bridge and Boulton market fire, members of civil society gathered on Monday at the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) House.

Their mission: to etch the incident into collective memory and kick responsible bodies out of their stupor.
The press conference was organised by the PMA and several high-profile members of civil society got a chance to voice their pessimism about the current investigation on one of the most lethal factory fires the country has witnessed.

“Nothing will come of [the investigation],” said Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, the association’s general secretary. He added that the inferno raised a plethora of questions which have yet to be answered: Is there any central authority which allows factories to be set up across Pakistan without protective measures for workers? Which ministry is responsible? And to what extent? If laws exist, who is responsible for implementing them? read more.

* Passports given to court nazir: Banks told to freeze factory owners’ accounts:

he State Bank of Pakistan on Monday directed all banks in the country to freeze all accounts of the owners of the fire-wrecked garment factory after a judicial magistrate granted a request of police to prevent the owners from transferring money to any other country.

In a related development, two of the factory owners submitted their passports and the third owner whose passport was with the Britishi High Commission filed the original receipt issued by the HC and the passport number to the Nazir of the Sindh High Court on Monday. read more.

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20120919

* Baldia Town blaze tragedy:

Many laws of Factories Act not followed

An interesting twist came in the garments factory fire case when it was revealed that many laws of the Factories Act, including electrical/labour inspections, made around a century ago, were not followed by the industrialists against which they were only liable to pay a fine of Rs 500, the Daily Times learnt here on Tuesday.

Sources in Sindh Labour Department disclosed that major electrical and labour laws for conducting inspections and surprise visits on yearly or time-to-time basis had been established as long ago as between the period of 1910-1937. Sources further disclosed that if any factory owner or management did not allow inspecting or restrained surprise-visit, they (factory owner/management) would be liable to pay a fine of Rs 100 to Rs 500 only.

They said that then Sindh governor Muhammad Mian Soomro had issued directions for restraining the electrical and labour inspectors from surprise or routine inspections of any new establishment or ongoing/running factories. “The provincial law department and Sindh law minister, human rights and parliamentary affairs of that time had refused to annul the rule relevant to inspection/surprise visits because no caretaker government, minister or governor could change any rule/law”, sources added. read more.

* All workers from Baldia factory to get Rs3,600 in pensions, says EOBI:

 Only 190 workers at ill-fated Baldia factory were registered but the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) has announced it is giving all of them, the victims and survivors, a monthly Rs3,600 pension.

According to EOBI chief Javed Iqbal, the national database authority is providing them DNA matches of survivors and victims so they can draw up a list. On Monday, 25 cases were finalised. “The minimum pension for the dead is around Rs3,600 and the same applies to the injured,” he told The Express Tribune. “But it varies from case to case and the tenure of service.”

A total of 185 workers have been identified and the first compensation was handed by the Bahria Town group at Governor House Monday.  The federal and Sindh governments have separately announced compensation for the dead and injured.

There is a total labour force of 56 million in Pakistan out of which 33 million work in agriculture, which does not come under EOBI’s purview. This leaves 23 million workers. “Only six million of them are registered with EOBI and there is no record for the remaining 17 million,” he said. Factory owners are responsible for regisration and not the EOBI. “Either they over report or under report things.”
read more.
         ( Rs3,600 = $ 38 – € 29)

* Bahria Town gives Rs200,000 to each deceased of factory fire:

The Bahria Town on Monday distributed compensation cheques of Rs200,000 each to the families of 178 people who perished in the Baldia Town garment factory fire, while Rs100,000 each were given to the injured.

The ceremony, held at the Governor House, was attended in large numbers by the legal heirs of the deceased. Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MNA Faryal Talpur, Zain Malik, Director of Bahria Town, and others were present on the occasion.
Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad said the labourers would be employed soon as he had talked to the traders and industrialists in this regard.

Ebada said that the factory fire was a national tragedy. He said the Sindh government would also provide compensation to the victims within next few days while compensation announced by the prime minister would also be distributed among the legal heirs of the deceased workers soon.
He said efforts have been made to provide jobs to the workers who have been rendered jobless due to the devastating factory fire. He revealed that philanthropists were also involved in collecting fund which would be distributed among the heirs.
read more.

* Factory inferno: Ali Enterprises’ assets frozen on SBP orders:

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) asked all banks on Monday to freeze the assets of the owners of Ali Enterprises’ factory, which was engulfed in flames on September 11, killing at least 260 workers that were trapped inside.

The notice was sent to the banks in the evening after a lower court asked the central bank to stop the people nominated in the police complaint from moving their assets elsewhere.
“We have issued the orders,” an SBP spokesman said without sharing further details. “There are 40 commercial banks involved and nothing can be revealed about the amount being frozen.”

According to investigation officer Chaudhry Zafar Iqbal’s written application the owners have Rs510 million in four accounts kept with two banks.
Ali Enterprises, a member of Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA), had annual sales of around Rs5 billion, according to SITE Association of Industry’s Chairman Irfan Moton. read more.

* Factory fire investigation: Men arrested after calls traced from owners’ cell:

 After pulling the data from the cell phones of the Baldia factory owners, the law enforcement agencies arrested more than 10 people in Baldia Town in connection with the fire at the garment factory.

The detainees, reportedly affiliated with a political party, were taken to an undisclosed location for questioning. According to sources, the suspects had business ties with the factory owners but were not on good terms with them.
Sources added that all suspects belong to one family and one of them had repeatedly called the factory owners the day of the fire. read more.

* Closed doors made it worse, says witness:

Closed doors made the situation worse, deposed two eyewitness workers of the fire-wrecked garment factory in Baldia Town while recording their testimony in court on Tuesday.

Machine operator Umer and accountant Khuram Iqbal, who escaped the devastating fire that destroyed the garment factory and killed about 289 people, recorded their testimony before Judicial Magistrate Karachi West Sohail Ahmed Mashori. This is the second set of proceedings into the fire. On Tuesday, a two-member commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, also heard testimonies separately.

Meanwhile, machine operator Umer told the magistrate that he worked on the first floor of the factory. On that evening, he heard an explosion on the ground floor and then the noise of workers who said a fire had erupted. After a while, smoke started spreading. He had hardly reached a window where someone from the outside threw him a rope. He jumped out and fell unconscious.read more. & read more.
 

* Sindh governor, not CM, called off factory checks in 1999, tribunal told:

 As investigations of the Baldia garment factory continue, on Tuesday it emerged that it wasn’t the chief minister but the governor who ordered the suspension of inspections in industrial areas in 1999.

The decision was taken after complaints of widespread corruption were made against visiting electric and boiler inspectors, deposed the energy officials before the tribunal probing the blaze, which claimed the lives of 258 factory workers.

“Then Sindh governor ordered to shut the offices of the electric department and boiler inspection but the law department opposed it and suggested changing the inspection procedure,” senior electric inspector, Amjad Mahesar, told the tribunal, which continued its proceedings for the second consecutive day at the Sindh Secretariat. “Later, the caretaker cabinet came up with the decision to suspend the inspections that no successive government altered.” The two-member commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, was formed by the Sindh government on September 12, a day after the fire broke out at Ali Enterprises. The tribunal had started its hearing on Monday, summoning the labour officials before it recorded the statements of fire and electric officials. read more.


The shop floor of Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town which went up in flames last week. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

* Burnt factories, charred lives and shop floors:

The devastating factory fire that killed 264 workers in Karachi was a sickening and tragic event but altogether not surprising.

A few years ago when I was conducting fieldwork in urban Punjab, specifically in Faisalabad, Sheikhupura and Sialkot, interviewing heads of  various textile and garment factories and quietly observing  shopfloor dynamics, I was struck by the highly discriminating treatment of labour across factories of different sizes and specialisations.

The majority of factories I had visited were export-oriented firms firmly entrenched in a hierarchy of global supply chains. While some firms like […] were positioned at the upper end of the value chain as direct suppliers to global retail brands and buyers such as JC Penney and Tommy Hilfiger, many others were wedged at the lower end of the chain struggling to establish direct links with foreign buyers and trying to remain competitive in an increasingly cut-throat market of liberalized world trade. The latter category of firms encompassed upstream suppliers to either large firms like […] or to individuals who acted as middlemen for international buyers. Labour relations across the range of the value chain and firm size varied considerably.
read more.

* Multiple government departments control all factories: industrialist:

Chairman of Value Added Textile Associations Rana Muahmmad Mushtaq Khan on Tuesday clarified that all factories come under strict control of multiple government departments all of which monitor safety and security measures in industrial units.

Commenting on the Baldia Town factory fire and the resultant media hype about factory managements, he said that several government departments such as Civil Defence ensured labour training and issued Labour Training Certificate for employees as well as Terminal Certificate.

Similarly, the Labour Department carried out periodic medical examinations of workers by a certified surgeon while the Labour Department’s Technical Inspection Engineers carried out health and safety measures. In addition, there was one Department of Electrical Inspector which inspected electrical installations at factories. Then there is SESSI which “is in-charge of education cess and social security of labourers”.read more

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20120920

* The truth behind the flames:

We still do not know what ignited the fire at the Karachi garments factory that killed over 250 people. This is frightening, since it means we have no clue as to how to prevent similar infernos in the future.

The Sindh government tribunal, set up to inquire into the reasons for the blaze, has not come any closer to the truth thus far. Electrical engineers have dismissed claims by firefighters that a short circuit triggered the fire, stating there is no real evidence of this. The firefighting department, as well as others, have yet to come up with full reports. The observation by the chief of the tribunal stating that highly caustic, possibly inflammable chemicals used at the plant could have been a factor, certainly needs to be examined. read more.

* Baldia Town inferno tragedy : Only five labour officers for 10,000 factories! :

“Over 10,000 factories are working in Karachi’s different industrial zones with only five labour officers visiting them, a fact which indicates sheer negligence,” remarked Judicial Commission (JC) headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, convened to probe garment factory fire case, here on Wednesday.

The JC also recorded the statements of relevant government officers, including Chief Engineer Sindh Industrial and Trade Estate (SITE) Ghulam Shabeer Khokhar, Managing Director SITE Abdul Rasheed Solangi, Deputy Director (Technical), Labour Department, Avais Ahmad Sheikh and others.

The tribunal head, Alvi, said that industries/factories’ laws were constituted around a century ago with the penalty for any illegal act being Rs 100 to 1,000. “It is sad to note that relevant authorities did not attempt to re-constitute the laws,” he added.
read more.

* Short circuit behind Baldia inferno ruled out:

The cause of the fire that wrecked a garment factory in Baldia Town last week and killed more than 250 people became more suspicious on Tuesday when electrical engineers testifying before a Sindh government-established inquiry tribunal dismissed the firefighters’ assessment that an electric short circuit had ignited the blaze.

None of the relevant institutions had compiled their final reports that could help the probe body ascertain the cause of the fire.
They, however, agreed to do so when tribunal chief retired Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi sought final reports of the fire and Sindh electric and energy departments on Wednesday.

When asked by the tribunal to “speculate” the apparent cause of the fire in the light of his “decades-old firefighting experience”, chief fire officer Ehtashamuddin confidently said “electric short circuit” as the cause of the inferno that took over 50 firefighters more than 24 hours to douse. read more.

* As time runs out in morgues, the living line up:

Four days after the fire at a garment factory in Baldia Town – men, women and children stood outside hospitals and the Edhi morgue, waiting for their turns to give their DNA samples to help identify their loved ones.

According to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital’s spokesperson Dr Saleem Raza, a total of 42 DNA samples were collected, including two on Friday. At Civil Hospital, Karachi, the doctors collected 17 DNA samples, while the staff at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre received 12 DNA samples. Civil hospital’s spokesperson Dr Kamaluddin Shaikh told The Express Tribune that the hospitals were asked to send all blood samples to the police who will then send them for testing. He added that they might call a team of experts to Karachi to hurry up with the DNA assessment.

However, Dr Suresh Kumar, the special secretary of health at the Sindh Health Department, said that all DNA samples were being sent to Islamabad. He added that around 99 bodies and 65 DNA samples had already been sent to the country’s capital. Although the process of matching and sampling DNA takes about 15 days, Kumar claimed that the government was trying to speed things up. read more.

* Factory fire: avoiding repetition:

The inferno at a Karachi garment factory calls for certain action. Once there was a big fire in a New Delhi cinema hall, Uphaar, killing a number of people who did not all happen to belong to the poor segment of society.

The cinema hall, which was located in a posh locality, did not have any ‘exit’ gates. With the passage of time, people’s memory faded. So did the public anger.
Years later, Calcutta saw a severe fire breaking out at a business locality — ‘Territti Market’ — which housed textile goods, tarpaulin, etc. The market had two unauthorised floors, besides letting and sub-letting for inflammable materials without authorisation.

A mere punishment for the owner of the Karachi factory will not solve any problems. No single person in the public office will, perhaps, be found above the complicity in the arena of enforcement.
Alternatively, is it feasible to demolish all such unsafe factory/business premises to make way for new ones conforming to safety standards? A congested neighbourhood along with narrow lanes compounds the problem all the more for fire brigades.

Building rules with open space norms are to be followed not in breach but in observance. All hazardous units should be shifted phase by phase to greener pastures.
Next comes the question of economic development. read more.

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20120921

* German retailer KIK to conduct safety review in Pakistan:

The Clean Clothes Campaign expresses their shock and outrage at the failure of German company KIK to ensure that workers in its supplier factories are employed in safe working conditions after it was confirmed that Ali Enterprises, which last week burnt down killing almost 300 people, was producing jeans for the low-cost retailer.

Around 650 workers were working at the Ali Enterprises factory when the fire broke out last Tuesday. Locked fire exits, barred windows and blocked stairways meant almost half of them perished. Many others were injured after jumping from the top floor of the building. The factory was not legally registered and had not undergone any building checks or government inspections. The owners of the factory have now been charged with murder, although they have yet to be apprehended by the authorities. The National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan is now also calling on authorities to look at charging KIK and any other confirmed buyers from the factory with criminal negligence. read more.

* Inspectors Certified Pakistani Factory as Safe Before Disaster:

A prominent factory monitoring group heavily financed by industry gave a clean bill of health to a Pakistani apparel plant last month, just weeks before a fire engulfed the premises and killed nearly 300 workers, many of them trapped behind locked exit doors.

In August, two inspectors who visited the factory, Ali Enterprises in Karachi, to examine working conditions gave it a prestigious SA8000 certification, meaning it had met international standards in nine areas, including health and safety, child labor and minimum wages. The two inspectors were working on behalf of Social Accountability International, a nonprofit monitoring group based in New York that obtains much of its financing from corporations and relies on 21 affiliates around the world to do most of its inspections.

Weeks later, a fire swept the plant on Sept. 12, trapping hundreds of workers in a building with barred windows and just one open exit, resulting in one of the worst industrial disasters in history — one that killed nearly twice as many workers as the landmark Triangle shirtwaist factory fire of 1911 in New York. read more.

* For priceless lives, Karachi factories fined just British-era penalty of Rs500:

History puts today into perspective. In 1934, the British decided that factories would be fined Rs500 for breaking the rules. In those days that was a stupendous amount. Gold was cheap then at just Rs20 per tola. In 78 years since, the price of gold has gone up to Rs50,000 per tola – but factory fines remain at the same 1934 levels: Rs500.

Justice (retired) Qurban Alvi provided this nugget of history on Wednesday during the second hearing of the tribunal into the Baldia factory fire in which 258 people perished.
Labour officials had just told the judge that they were still working with the factory rules of 1934 and could only fine an owner Rs500 to Rs1,000.

“We are toothless,” said Owais Ahmed Shaikh, who is a technical deputy director with the labour department. “We cannot even force factory employers to pay the penalty and have to go to a judicial magistrate to enforce our decision.”
It appears that the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE), where the ill-fated Baldia factory is located, doesn’t have much more power either.

If a factory breaks the rules, SITE just fines them but can’t force them to undo the damage, explained SITE MD, Rashid Solangi. So, for example, if a factory doesn’t follow the rule of leaving 20% of space vacant in the building, all they have to do is pay the fine. read more.

* Tribunal demands halt to parallel probes:

An inquiry tribunal set up by the Sindh government to investigate the deadly Baldia Town factory fire that killed more than 250 people on Wednesday sought that ‘parallel inquiries’ into the incident by other bodies be stopped as they could create problems for witnesses and affect the findings of the tribunal.

While recording statements of witnesses and the officials concerned, the tribunal headed by retired Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi observed that apart from the Sindh chief minister assigned judicial inquiry there were several other inquiries being conducted by different institutions.

“So, I have conveyed that thought to the authorities to put a stop to those inquiries,” he said. “These parallel inquiries not only bother witnesses and the officials concerned, but may also affect the findings. They should be stopped until the tribunal completes its job.”

On the third day of the proceedings, Sindh Industrial and Trading Estate (SITE) managing director Abdul Rasheed Solangi and his chief engineer Ghulam Shabbir Khokhar appeared before the tribunal. Similarly, joint director of labour Zahid Gulzar Sheikh and deputy director of labour Owais Ahmed Sheikh also recorded their statements. read more.

* Remand granted to accused of Baldia factory incident:

A local court of Karachi has granted physical remand to the accused of Baldia garments factory incident till September 25.
Site B police presented the accused gatekeepers of the factory Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Muhammad in the court of Judicial Magistrate (West) Sohail Ahmed Mashori.
The court has granted physical remand to the accused till September 25. to read.

* LHC grants factory owners protective bail:

Owners of the factory Ali Enterprises, in which a fire claimed 260 lives in Karachi, were granted protective bails till October 1 by Lahore High Court’s (LHC) Rawalpindi bench on Thursday.

Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh accepted Abdul Aziz Bhaila’s plea, who along with his two sons Rashid Aziz and Shahid Aziz, had sought protective bails after being booked by the Karachi police in the Baldia factory fire case.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Bhailas’ lawyer Advocate Sardar Ishaq Khan said that the earlier bail obtained from Sindh High Court’s circuit bench in Larkana was due to expire on Friday, but they appealed for extension on Thursday due to the public holiday being observed today (Friday). read more. & read more.

* Cause of Baldia factory fire remains mystery as probe proceeds:

The findings of a key police investigator during the course of a probe into the blaze that wrecked a garments factory in Baldia Town last week and killed more than 250 people made the entire episode of the deadliest such incident suspicious on Thursday, raising questions about the exact cause of the fire and the management’s efforts to evacuate people from the two floors of the building before the flames had engulfed the industrial unit.

Terming the testimony as the ‘only truth’ that had come out during the four-day proceedings, tribunal chief retired Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi appreciated the ‘daring efforts’ of Inspector Chaudhary Zafar Iqbal, the investigation officer associated with the SITE-B police station, and told him to keep the probe body abreast of his findings.

Inspector Iqbal briefed the tribunal on the situation inside the factory an hour before and after the fire erupted through findings of statements he recorded during the past one week. People who recorded their statements included the owners of Ali Enterprises and factory workers and families of labourers killed in the fire to people living near the industrial unit.

His statement raised several new questions and put serious doubt over the role of a few staff members as well as people associated with the company one way or another but still the investigator did not say anything that could determine the cause of the fire.

“One of the senior management officers walked down the stairs to the ground floor from the second floor of the building just 15-20 minutes before the fire had engulfed the building,” he said. “It’s is beyond my comprehension as to how it was not possible for any of the more than 250 people to come down to the ground floor the same way? Why were they not informed of the fire and they could not use the same stairs?”
read more.  & read Baldia factory fire: Inspector says extortion not a cause, lays blame on owners.

 

* 3 watchmen of burnt factory on remand:

Three watchmen of fire-wrecked garment factory in Baldia Town, Karachi were remanded to police custody by Judicial Magistrate West here on Thursday till September 25.
SITE-B police station produced the three accused watchmen, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Muhammad and Ali Muhammad, before the court of Judicial Magistrate. Investigation officer prayed to the court for the remand in order to interrogate further pertaining to the case.
IO stated in court according to initial investigation the watchmen locked the doors of the factory while salary was being disbursed among the ill-fated workers. Judicial Magistrate (West) Sohail Ahmed Mashoori remanded the accused to the police custody till September 25, 20012 and directed the IO to submit a case diaries on the next hearing. read more.

* Unions are best way to prevent further disasters in Pakistan:

IndustriALL Global Union argues that freedom of association and trade unions are the best way to prevent further workplace tragedies, after it is revealed that certification of the Ali Enterprise factory in Pakistan by a prominent monitoring group issued just weeks earlier did not prevent the fire that killed nearly 300 workers, many of them trapped behind locked exit doors.

According to the report of the New York Times, published on 20 September 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/world/asia/pakistan-factory-passed-ins… inspectors of a prominent factory monitoring group, Social Accountability International, heavily financed by industry rendered two visits to the Pakistani apparel plant last month, just weeks before a fire engulfed the premises and killed nearly 300 workers.

Analyzing the certification process in Pakistan the report questions the entire factory monitoring system used by multinational garment and electronics companies to approve their use of law-cost suppliers in the developing world. read more.

* ‘Pakistan must ensure decent work for its 55 million workforce’:

In the backdrop of a recent tragic factory fire incident in Karachi the government, representatives of employers and workers on Thursday reaffirmed their commitment to promoting social justice through decent work environment.

A tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the representatives of the employers, workers and government officials in presence of International Labour Organisation (ILO) country head at the ILO office in Islamabad, said a press release issued.

ILO Country Director Francesco d’Ovidio, Ministry of Human Resources Development Secretary Muhammad Ahsan Raja and Representatives from the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan and Pakistan Workers’ Federation signed the MoU on the second Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP-II). read more.

* Factory fire: ensuring workers’ rights:

THE question today is what have we done for our workplace and your workers’ safety? It is time every one of us looked into their own lives. Are we endangering the lives of people who work for us? Are we giving them their basic right of safety?

I urge every factory, office, warehouses and business owner to pay heed to emergency-safety protocols. Provide your employees with a fire escape, equip your factory with fire extinguishers, get your electricity wiring inspected, and give regular safety drills by providing a functional fire-alarm system.

We, as young doctors, trained first responders and primary trauma-care experts extend our help and support. We have been training people to prevent such emergencies, and in the event of one, handling trauma, burns, fractures, smoke inhalations, drowning, choking, heart attacks, snakebites, etc., through our organisation, the First Response Initiative of Pakistan (FRIP).

I urge employees and labourers to demand their basic rights from their employers. It is your right to be protected from such calamities. Ask your employers to create safety exits, ask them to perform regular drills, and be trained in the event of such an emergency.

If we learned one thing out of the recent tragedy of the fire in the factory, it is to follow safety protocols. Remember: prevention is always better than cure. read more.

* Baldia factory fire victims still not compensated:

None of the families of Baldia factory fire victims have been paid compensation so far, as the government is yet to issue notification for the release of promised funds, The News learnt on Tuesday.

Several announcements were made to pay compensation to the legal heirs of the victims of Ali Enterprises’ fire, who either lost their lives or suffered injuries in the factory inferno.

Around 300 workers were killed and a number of others were injured in the September 11 fire but no one has so far been compensated. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had announced Rs 4 lacs compensation for each deceased and Rs 1 lac for each injured.
During his visit to Karachi on September 14, PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif had announced Rs 3 lacs donation for each victim and Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah had also announced the compensation of the same amount for the victims.

It was learnt that since the victim workers were not registered with the Social Security Institute or the Employees Old-Age Benefit Institution (EOBI), they could not be compensated as per the existing rules and procedure.
In case of death of a registered worker, the Workers Welfare Fund usually pays Rs 600,000 compensation to his/her legal heirs. As per the procedure the employer concerned signs a document to certify that the deceased was his employee and he also contributes his share of compensation of Rs 300,000 per worker. And the victim family is issued the cheque of Rs 600,000 within 15 days.

The EOBI also starts releasing pension amount in case of the death of a registered worker.
However, this was not the case with the victims of Ali Enterprises, as the Labour Department and other government functionaries concerned have turned blind eye on the majority of the industrial workers, particularly the garment factory in question.
read more.

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20120923/24

* Fire put out at another factory:

The firemen have fought down a fire at another garments factory in Karachi after a struggle of seven hours, Geo News reported.

Reportedly, no one was hurt as the employees escaped in time.
It is suspected that combustible material caught fire at the first floor, which houses the cutting department of the apparel-making unit located in Rashidabad near SITE area, an industrial cluster.

Initially a couple of fire tenders arrived to douse the fire but the blaze soon grew out of their control and the backup was sent for.
The fire department finally subdued with the stubborn blaze with the help of five tenders abetted by a water bowser. read more.

* Fire breaks out in garment factory:

A major fire broke out in a local garment factory in the SITE police limits on Sunday causing loss of millions of rupees.

According to the Central Fire Station, the fire broke out at about 11:15pm and had spread to other parts of the factory within minutes, reducing goods worth millions of rupees to ashes.
At least seven fire engines of the KMC reached the spot later on. Leaping flames and thick black smoke could be seen from far-flung areas of the city. The cause of the fire was short circuit.

KESC authorities rushed to the scene and disconnected power, while Sui gas officials were also present to disconnect the gas connection.
Police and law-enforcement agencies cordoned off the area and the Edhi ambulances were also present at the site.

PPI adds: Meanwhile, after a 13 hour long operation, the Fire Brigade of KMC finally controlled the fire erupted at the oil mills in SITE Limited on Saturday. Fire tenders and staff from KPT, PAF, CAA, Clifton Cantonment Board, Municipal Services, Machinery Pool and Rescue Department also took part in this fire fighting operation.
read more.

* Workers’ death in Karachi and Lahore: Condolence references and protest rallies by PTUDC:

Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign is organizing condolence references and  protests in various cities of Pakistan to condemn this barbarity which happened due to decaying capitalist system in Pakistan.

Lahore
In Lahore a condolence reference was organized for more than 300 workers who lost their lives in factory fires in Karachi and Lahore. The meeting was held in Lahore Press Club. The reference was attended by the International Secretary PTUDC Dr. Lal Khan, Central General Secretary Railways Labour
(….)

Dr. Tahir Shabbir recited a revolutionary poem at the start of program. After that one minute silence was observed for the victims of this tragedy.

The speakers said that there are no laws in Pakistan for the protection of workers and the workers in the factories are brutally oppressed and their lives are worse than that of animals.
The factory owners openly violate  the few regulations that exist on papers.
The minimum wage set by the government is already very low but factory owner pay much less than even that paltry amount.
Official minimum wage of eight thousand rupees is paid nowhere and in most factories the workers are forced to work for wages less than three to four thousands rupees a month.
If there are two hundred registered workers in a factory then in reality there are two thousand people working there and thanks to the system of contract labour, no record is kept about the workers. 99% workers don’t have any kind of social security and old age benefit because the condition for it is to have a permanent job in factory and permanent jobs are very rare these days as most of the workers are hired on contracts or on daily wages which is covered by no law or regulation.

Unions don’t exist in most of the industrial sector which is encouraged by the rulers. There is no justice for the workers in labour courts.
The workers cannot afford to go to the labour courts and if they manage to do so the cases prolong for several years and usually the decisions are always in the favour of capitalists and factory owners. Life of the worker has been made hell by this system.
(….)

Karachi
A meeting was held on 14 September at SITE industrial area in Karachi in the aftermath of tragedy in which more than 300 workers died in factory fire. Meeting was chaired by president of SITE Labour Forum Khasta Rehman.
He is also president of labour union in Coca Cola Karachi.
He proposed the agenda to start struggle for the legal rights of workers killed in this tragedy. In this meeting a committee was formed which will take care of the legal proceedings of the case of killed workers. Bakht Zaman who work in a pharmaceutical firm was made in charge of this committee.

Unanimous decision was made to hoist banners in front of all factories in SITE industrial area in protest over these killings.
A leaflet will also be distributed to all workers. A committee was formed for this purpose.
A fund was formed immediately in which 10,000 rupees were collected at the spot. Comrade Janat Husain of PTUDC also addressed this meeting and said that workers will themselves have to fight for their rights.
He said that according to government sources there were 268 workers in this factory but at the time of incident it came to knowledge that 3000 people worked there.
He said that PTUDC will always fight for the workers cause and will take the message of this meeting to all the workers of Pakistan and other countries.
read all-more.

* Workers Rights Movement formed to help victims’ families:

The Workers Rights Movement (WRM) has been formed to struggle for implementation of labour laws, grant of compensation to families of victims and arrest of gutted Baldia Town factory’s owners as well as confiscation of their assets and bank accounts.

The movement was formed after a meeting of the representatives of more than 70 trade union federations and labour rights organisations at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, the other day.

The meeting was presided over by noted politician and labour rights activist, Yousuf Masti Khan. A number of representatives of plant-level unions, different industrial zones labour bodies, left wing parties, human rights organisations, youth, students, women and social workers were present at the meeting. read more.

* PM distributes cheques among factory fire victims’ heirs:

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Saturday distributed compensation cheques among the relatives of the deceased and the injured workers of Baldia Town factory fire incident.

The inferno killed over 250 factory workers and injured hundreds others. The prime minister distributed cheques worth Rs 400,000 each for the deceased and Rs 100,000 each for the injured of the fire incident.

While the chief minister gave cheques of Rs 300,000 million each for those who lost their lives and Rs 50,000 each for the injured. Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan, Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa, Federal Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Federal Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah and Federal Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Speaker Sindh Assembly Nisar Ahmed Khuhro and Deputy Speaker Syeda Shehla Raza, Sindh ministers, members of National Assembly and Sindh Assembly were also present at the ceremony.
read more.

* Owners of gutted factory show distrust in probe committees:

The owners of gutted Baldia garments factory have expressed their distrust in all investigation committees, including those of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Sindh Police, formed to investigate into the incident that resulted in around 289 deaths.

This was stated by Advocate Aamir Munsib Qureshi, counsel of the factory owners, before Judicial Commission (JC) constituted to probe factory fire incident here on Saturday. The JC formed to probe garment factory fire headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi proceeded the hearings of the commission.
Factory owners counsel Aamir Munsib Qureshi appeared before the commission and stated that his client had no confidence in the investigation committees. The investigation committee from Sindh Police is headed by Senior Superintendent of Police, Farooq Awan, while that of the FIA by Amir Farooqi.
“The factory owners demand international investigators to probe the matter impartially and ascertain facts,” he said, adding that the owners were ready to pay all the expenses of the committee/commission. read more. & read more.
 

* When misery repeats itself, but not quite:

March 25, 1911:
As the closing hours of the day approached, a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Factory in New York City that resulted in 146 people losing their lives in 18 minutes. The company was a typical textile manufacturing unit based in Manhattan, characterised by long working hours, low wages, and unhealthy, unhygienic working conditions.

The fire erupted on the eighth floor. As a standard company policy, managers had locked the doors to every possible exit – a practice to prevent excessive and unauthorised break from work. Workers who could not escape the building jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors to the streets below. Some got severely injured; the others were less fortunate and lost their lives.

(……)

September 11, 2012:
Over a decade later, as the closing hours of the day approached, a fire broke out at Ali Enterprises Factory in Karachi, killing almost 300 people. The company was a typical textile manufacturing unit characterised by long working hours, low wages, and unhygienic working conditions. Workers were unable to leave the office premises because the doors were locked – a practice to prevent them from leaving their shifts early.

The fumes became increasingly toxic in the presence of textile chemicals present in the factory. There was no emergency exit and the only way for the workers to escape was to smash iron bars on the windows to jump the four storey building. The company thrived on immigrant worker population, both from within and outside borders, willing to work in compromising conditions and low wages. read more.

* Social Accountability International: We are devastated by the Pakistan fire & determined to find answers:

All of us at Social Accountability International (SAI) and at Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) are horrified by the fire at Ali Enterprises in Karachi, Pakistan, on Wednesday, September 12, in which nearly 300 workers died. We are determined to learn how and why it happened. The day following the fire SAAS was informed by RINA, a global certification body based in Genova, Italy, that RINA had issued an SA8000 certification to the Ali Enterprises factory in August 2012.  Once we learned this, SAI and SAAS began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the certification, and released a public statement on September 16 based on verified information.  News reports have been full of discrepancies, from the number of workers at the factory, to the number of victims, to whether fire emergency doors failed to work – and we have to be careful about this speculation.  It is essential that we act, but only on factual information.

We have many questions, and others have raised questions as well.  To help eliminate some of the inevitable confusion in a matter like this, we have prepared a list of questions and answers to the extent we know them at this time.

1. What is the name of the audit company that issued the certificate?
2.  How could a certificate have been issued under the conditions widely reported in the media to have existed at the Ali Enterprises factory?
3. Doesn’t this failure demonstrate the inadequacy of the social auditing model?
4. What is being done to ensure adequate oversight over SAAS accredited audit firms?
5. What companies were sourcing apparel from the Ali Enterprises factory?

More questions And answers you can  find here.

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20120925

* Worker Rights Movement Formed, Launching Movement Against Factory Fire Culprits:

A representative meeting of more than 70 trade union federations, plant level unions, labour bodies from industrial zones, leftist parties, youth, students, women, social organizations, labor rights and human rights organizations, professional organizations, and individuals was held on Saturday, September 22, at Karachi Art Council to discuss the 9/11 factory fire tragedy in Karachi/Lahore and to develop joint action plans to demand justice from the culprits and for workers’ rights. Yousuf Masti Khan, of Workers Party Pakistan (WPP), presided over the meeting.

Nasir Mansoor, of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), coordinated the meeting and briefed the participants about the current situation and the various measures taken by different organizations including the case in the high court, collection of information about the deceased and injured workers, and proposed future actions to cope with the situation.

The representatives stated that the government has been trying to give safe cover-up to the factory owners and sweep the fire tragedy under the carpet through the formation of a partial commission, which lacks the trust of worker-representative bodies.
The fact that the government has yet to initiate any compensation process shows that it has no sympathy toward the deceased and injured workers and the plight of their families.
The government is failing to respect the law and punish the culprits responsible for the tragedy. Rather the government is dragging on the process in the hopes that the people will forget it.
That is why it allowed the main culprit to go escort-free and facilitated the obtaining of preemptive bail, first from Larkana Bench and than from Rawalpindi.
This shows the state apparatus’ attitude toward the 300 workers who were burned alive in the tragedy. read more.

* Action against owners, state functionaries demanded:

The Garments Hosiery Labour Association (GHLA) has demanded of the Sindh government to take legal action against the owners of Ali Enterprises as well as the Civil Defence, Fire Brigade and Labour Departments for showing criminal negligence in the Baldia factory inferno that claimed the lives of 298 workers.

The association has also demanded for providing jobs to the affected labourers who lost their jobs due to the incident and till then they should be given unemployment allowance.
Addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Thursday, General Secretary GHLA Nawab Ali and other office bearers including Sohail Raza said that only a few hosiery garment factories that have been registered with the International Standard Organization (ISO) use to honour the code of conduct while most of the factories had been obtaining ISO certificate through foul means.
(…)
According to Nawab Ali, there are hundreds of hosiery garment factories in Karachi where around 800,000 labourers work, of whom 40 per cent are female. read more.

* Baldia factory blaze survivor speaks of a forenoon fire:

A survivor of the Baldia garment factory blaze told an inquiry tribunal on Monday that earlier in the day on Sept 11 a fire had broken out and been extinguished within 10 minutes.

Sharif, a young labourer, was testifying before the tribunal investigating the inferno that killed more than 250 people and wrecked the industrial unit.
Retired Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi, who is heading the probe body set up by the Sindh government, said he was surprised by the disclosure and called more witnesses to corroborate the statement.

The Ali Enterprises employee said that he, his father and three women coworkers escaped the flames though a second floor window of the building.
“Earlier in the day while we were busy working at 11am we heard that a fire had broken out on the ground floor of the factory that was put out in 10 minutes,” said Sharif insisting that the blaze that engulfed the industrial unit in the evening was not the first fire incident that fateful day.

“Did you see the 11am fire?” asked the tribunal and Sharif said he only heard about that. However, he said the talk about the forenoon fire was so common among his colleagues well before the evening fire that he was convinced that it did occur.
read more.

* Lazy fire brigade to blame for tragedy, say owners:

The owners of Ali Enterprises, the ill-fated garment factory where 258 people died in a fire, have refuted all claims of negligence on their part and blamed the late arrival of fire tenders for the tragedy.

Shahid Bhaila and his brother Arshad Bhaila appeared before the two-member commission on Monday for the first time since the hearing began on September 17. The third owner, their father Abdul Aziz Bhaila, could not turn up because of health problems.
“Had the fire brigade arrived sooner, the loss could have been contained,” said Shahid Bhaila while testifying before the tribunal constituted by the Sindh government to determine the cause of fire.

Allegations of closed doors, an unregistered factory or no fire safety measures inside the building were all rejected by the owners.

Earlier, the chief fire officer, Ehtisham Saleem, informed the tribunal that fire tenders had reached the spot within 15 minutes and continued the operation till the fire was extinguished. But Shahid Bhaila disagreed, saying: “We rang up the fire emergency number many times, but did not get a response. I had to send my manager personally to the SITE fire station. Despite our hectic efforts, the first fire tender arrived after one hour.” read more.

* Our employees being harassed: Baldia Town factory owners:

Owners of the ill-fated factory in Baldia Town claimed on Monday that their employees were being harassed and added that they wanted to resolve the case immediately but were not being allowed to visit the factory, Express News reported.

Appearing in front of a judicial tribunal at the Sindh Secretariat, owners Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila said that the factory as well as its records are in the custody of investigative agencies.
The owners were recording their statements in front of the tribunal headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alavi.
The owners said that they had no information about any chemical which allegedly caused the fire and added that eight of the factory workers are in police custody.
read more.

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20120926

* Owners told to file assets list in court:

The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the owners of the gutted garment factory in Baldia Town to file a complete list of their respective properties and assets in court within 10 days.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam was seized with as many as five identical petitions seeking a judicial inquiry into the fire incident that claimed lives of over 250 workers on Sept 11.

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Rana Faizul Hasan, a civil right campaigner and others filed the petitions for institution of a judicial commission who may fix the responsibility on persons responsible for such an incident and suggest monetary compensation to the legal heirs of the inferno victims.

The petitioners also prayed to the court to restrain the inquiry commission constituted by the provincial government from functioning. read more. & read more.
 

* Lazy fire brigade to blame for tragedy, say owners:

 The owners of Ali Enterprises, the ill-fated garment factory where 258 people died in a fire, have refuted all claims of negligence on their part and blamed the late arrival of fire tenders for the tragedy.

Shahid Bhaila and his brother Arshad Bhaila appeared before the two-member commission on Monday for the first time since the hearing began on September 17. The third owner, their father Abdul Aziz Bhaila, could not turn up because of health problems.

“Had the fire brigade arrived sooner, the loss could have been contained,” said Shahid Bhaila while testifying before the tribunal constituted by the Sindh government to determine the cause of fire.

Allegations of closed doors, an unregistered factory or no fire safety measures inside the building were all rejected by the owners.

Earlier, the chief fire officer, Ehtisham Saleem, informed the tribunal that fire tenders had reached the spot within 15 minutes and continued the operation till the fire was extinguished. But Shahid Bhaila disagreed, saying: “We rang up the fire emergency number many times, but did not get a response. I had to send my manager personally to the SITE fire station. Despite our hectic efforts, the first fire tender arrived after one hour.” read more.

* Fire officer records his statement to the tribunal:

The tribunal, formed to investigate the cause of fire which erupted in one of Karachi’s factory killing at least 258 people on Sept 11, summoned some of the surviving workers on Wednesday to record their testimonies, DawnNews reported.

Chief Fire Officer Ehtesham uddin appeared before the tribunal, headed by Justice (retd) Qurban Alvi, to present his testimony.

The chief fire officer presented the call records of the day of the incident and daily journal of the fire department to the tribunal.

Answering a question, the chief officer said that it was necessary to examine the map of the factory so that it can be ascertained that how many emergency exits were initially planned. read more.

* Fire dept fails to find cause of Baldia factory inferno:

The fire department submitted on Tuesday its final report to an inquiry tribunal investigating the Baldia Town garment factory inferno, which killed more than 250 workers on Sept 11, and admitted that it did not have the means to determine the cause of a fire.

The report submitted by chief fire officer Ehtashamuddin to the Sindh government-established tribunal headed by retired Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi, however, ‘assessed’ the cause to be a short circuit.

In the final report the department gave details of its operation. It said the provincial institutions, including the Sindh Industrial and Trading Estate Limited and Civil Defence, failed to keep checks on the ‘serious violations’ of the building and safety rules by Ali Enterprises.

“Would it be right to say that a short circuit could be the cause of the fire, but you don’t have the expertise to declare it so?” asked Justice Alvi and the chief fire officer replied in the affirmative.

“Neither do we have the expertise nor do laboratories carry out a forensic examination of the affected place. The cause of the fire we have mentioned in the report is based on our assessment and experience, but not as a result of a technical analysis,” he said, adding that other causes of the fire could not be ruled out.
read more.  & read more. & read more.
   

* Short circuit may have caused the fire, says fire brigade:

In their initial report, fire brigade officials have conjectured that a short circuit might have caused the inferno which ravaged Ali Enterprises’ garment factory in Baldia.

“This is not the final report,” said the chief fire officer, Ehtisham Saleem. “We do not have a forensic expert to ascertain the fire’s cause and using our vast experience, we have merely surmised that a short circuit led to the inferno.”

This is the second time that fire department officials appeared before the judicial committee, which was formed by the Sindh government on September 12 to ascertain the cause behind the fire. A day earlier, the factory’s owners, Shahid Bhaila and his brother Arshad Bhaila, had appeared before the committee and castigated the fire department’s inefficiency in dealing with the incident.

During the proceeding, Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Ali, who is heading the committee, asked the fire brigade how they deduced that a short circuit had caused the inferno. “Frequent power fluctuations can cause a short circuit. I think this was also the case with the Baldia factory fire,” said Saleem. read more.

* Baldia factory fire: Who is architect Qamar Uddin? :

Two weeks after a fire gutted Ali Enterprise factory, killing 258 people trapped inside, the authorities have still not found its architect and industry officials now doubt he even exists, highlighting the shady way in which many building designs are approved in Karachi.  

Inquires made by The Express Tribune to track him down have led to dead ends with both professional bodies – the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners and the Institute of Architects Pakistan (IAP) – equally clueless.
The 6×4 feet blueprint of the factory says that Muhammad Qamar Uddin, with an architect’s licence number of A1-01-67, designed the building. His address is stated to be R-631, Sector 9, North Karachi.
PTCL record shows that a phone connection has been registered under the name of Qamar Uddin at the same home address. The number, however, is dead. read more.

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20120927

* Report on factory fire to be submitted tomorrow:

The tribunal formed to investigate the cause of fire which erupted in one of Karachi’s factory killing at least 258 people on Sept 11 would present its report to the Sindh government tomorrow.

Two Medico-Legal Officers (MLO) on Wednesday recorded their statements to the tribunal which was headed by Justice (Retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi.

The MLO of Jinnah hospital Dr Jagdeesh Kumar presented post-mortem reports of nine of the victims of the factory fire. He said that these people died because of intensity of the fire and excess inhaling of carbon-monoxide. Some people died because of fear, shock and ingestion of poisonous gases in stomach and brain, he added.

The MLO of the Civil Hospital Dr Abdul Haq presented post-mortem reports of the 15 people deceased in the incident.

He said that a certain type of chemical test of the dead bodies could have ascertained the cause of the fire but there was no facility in the country to conduct those tests. read more.

* Tribunal probing Karachi factory fire will submit report by Sept 28:

Residents look on during the rescue operation after a deadly fire at a garment factory in Karachi, Sept 12, 2012. — File Photo by AFP

The tribunal formed to investigate the cause of fire which erupted in one of Karachi’s factory killing at least 258 people on Sept 11 would present its report to the Sindh government on Sept 28, DawnNews reported.

Two Medico-Legal Officers (MLO)  on Wednesday recorded their statements to the tribunal which was headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi .
The MLO of Jinnah hospital Dr Jagdeesh Kumar presented post-mortem reports of nine of the victims of the factory fire. He said that these people died because of intensity of the fire and excess inhaling of carbon-monoxide.

Some people died because of fear, shock and ingestion of poisonous gases in stomach and brain, he added.
The MLO of the civil hospital Dr Abdul Haq presented post-mortem reports of the fifteen people deceased in the incident.
He said that a certain type of chemical test of the dead-bodies could have ascertained the cause of the fire but there was no facility in the country to conduct those tests. read more.

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20120928

* Safety measures for workers being taken on emergency basis- Ministry:

Welfare schemes and awareness pro-garmmes for the labour are being initiated by the Labour Department in Sindh so that safety of the workers would be ensured in the industrial areas of the Sindh.

This was stated by Secretary Ministry of Labour Sindh, Arif Elahi. Speaking at the Korangi Associa-tion of Trade and Industry (KATI) on Thursday, the Secretary Labour stressed that the measures for the safety of labour in the factories are being taken on emergency basis.

He said that a training programme to create aware-ness among government functionaries, employers and employees to get them acquainted with labour laws and fire safety and hazards regulations. He said that international Labour Organization is also being involved to create awareness among both the em-ployees and employers. He said that Rs500,000 being disbursed among each family of those expired in the factory fire in Baldia Town. He agreed with the point raised by the President All Karachi Indus-trial Alliance Mian Zahid Hussain that after the 18th Amendment EOBI (Employees Old Age Benefit Institution) to the provinces.
read more.

* Toxic fumes caused the most deaths- Autopsy reports:


Doctors state carbon monoxide poisoning and improper ventilation led to most deaths. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

Inadequate ventilation, toxic fumes and carbon monoxide caused the majority of the 258 deaths at the Baldia garment factory fire. The findings were shared by the doctors who did the autopsies.

The three medico-legal officers (MLOs) of Civil, Jinnah and Abbasi Shaheed hospitals submitted the post-mortem reports at Wednesday’s hearing of the two-member tribunal investigating the fire. They all were, however, of the view that public hospitals in Karachi lacked chemical examination facilities, otherwise they could have pinpointed the actual cause of death.

Fifteen bodies were autopsied at Civil hospital of which five were unidentified, deposed Dr Khaliq Haq, the hospital’s senior MLO. “I believe the fire in plastics and other inflammable goods produced toxic gases and as there was no proper ventilation, most of the workers inhaled carbon monoxide and lost consciousness before being burnt,” he said, while requesting Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi to order that the government set up chemical examination facilities at public hospitals in Karachi. read more.

* Tribunal suspects police of hiding report:

The head of the Baldia factory fire tribunal, Justice (Retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, on the final day of tribunal proceedings held here on Wednesday, slammed the police forensics division for its failure to submit a report on the tragic incident.

Meanwhile, the tribunal was informed by two senior government hospital medico-legal officers (MLOs) that a majority of casualties in the tragic incident were caused by inhalation of carbon monoxide.

Inspector Shahid Hasan Khan, who summoned by the tribunal, stated that his in-charge was in Australia to attend a seminar on forensic investigations and that he had taken the report with him.
Alvi refused to accept Khan’s claim, and ordered him to inspect his in-charge’s office and to submit the report at the earliest.

“Should we consider that you are refusing to furnish the record to the tribunal?” Alvi asked the inspector.
Separately, Additional Home Secretary Sindh Khalil Rehman Sheikh recalled that during a tribunal proceeding last week, two forensic experts submitted that the University of Karachi (KU) was sent some samples from the gutted industrial unit.
read more.

* Architect’s licence was cancelled in 2001:

The Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners confirmed on Thursday that it cancelled the registration of architect Muhammad Qamar Uddin in 2001, three years before he designed the ill-fated Ali Enterprise Baldia factory.

The architect joined the council on March 7, 1986 but his license was cancelled on January 21, 2001, said council chairperson Shama Usman.
“Perhaps he had stopped practicing,” she said, about the architect whose signatures allowed the factory design to be approved in 2004 by SITE, a government entity responsible for implementing building bylaws in the industrial estate.  Inquires to track the architect have led to dead ends. His enlistment number with the council is LA-0035. SITE is also looking for him.  to read.

* Post-fire incident: some suggestions:

The horrendous fire incident in the garment factory in Karachi should serve as a wake-up call for our government and relevant agencies.

A proper safety monitoring agency should be constituted at the federal level to streamline effective safety procedures for all types of works and facilities;
On construction contracts, safety advance should be given to contractors compulsorily along with mobilisation advance before commencement of work.

No work should be allowed to start on site until and unless the contractor complies with all relevant safety procedures and processes; for small structures also architects should design the fire-fighting arrangement which should be in line with necessary codes of the US-based National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).

Architects and project managers should constantly monitor and certify the safety aspects on work sites and ensure effective implementation of standards in order to eliminate chances of any incident; the contractor’s safety officer should be held responsible in case of any accident; electrical inspection by the agency concerned should be mandatory for upcoming electrical facilites in a building and the certificate should be issued by competent and honest professionals. read more.

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20120929

* A sign at today’s (20120929) rally in Karachi, Pakistan: International Brands Are Responsible for 300 Deaths:

* Labour rules: 98% of factories have no trade unions, say rights activists :

The Baldia factory fire in which 258 workers were burnt to death has prompted much debate and discussion on how far Karachi’s industrialists follow the rules.
But such is the state of affairs that a shocking 98% of factories have no trade unions, as a result of which worker rights fall by the wayside.

On Saturday yet another press conference was held to train the spotlight on these problems. It was held by Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Jaffar Khan of the Muttahida Labour Federation, Habibuddin Junaidi of the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation, Mirza Maqsood of the Mazdoor Mahaz-e-Amal and Rehana Yasmin of the Hosiery Garments Textile Workers General Union.

“This is a vulnerable section of society but plays a pivotal role in generation revenue,” they said, referring to the labour force. “If labour laws are not implemented and the Baldia factory issue is not seriously tackled, exports will be affected.”
read more.

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20120930

* Manager of Baldia factory remanded:

A judicial magistrate remanded on Saturday a suspect in police custody in a Baldia Town factory blaze case and also extended the remand of five other men in the case till Oct 1.

The police said on Friday they arrested Mansoor, said to be a manager of the fire-struck garment factory, who had gone missing after the incident, and produced him in court.
The investigating officer said he was a key suspect and requested the court to grant his custody for interrogation.

Judicial magistrate (west) Sohail Ahmed Mashori handed him over to the police on physical remand till Oct 1 and told the IO to produce him again on the next hearing.
The court also extended the physical remand of three gatekeepers — Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Mohammad — and two others — Hanif and Mohammad Majid who are said to be employees of the ill-fated factory — till Oct 1.
read more.
& read more.
 

* Fire station in SITE hasn’t had water in years over unpaid bills:

The fire station nearest the ill-fated garment factory in Baldia Town had not had a water supply for several years over unpaid bills.

“Even today, the water connection to the SITE fire station has not been restored,” said former city administrator Faheem Zaman – the guest speaker at a discussion on the Baldia fire held by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) at its office on Friday.
On September 11, more than 250 people were burnt alive in the inferno at Ali Enterprises, which is located along with 2,000 other factories within the jurisdiction of SITE fire station.

While talking to The Express Tribune, chief fire officer Ehtishamuddin confirmed that the water supply to SITE fire station had been disconnected, adding that in case of a fire in the area, the tenders go for a fill up at the Liaquatabad post office pumping station. read more.

* PRGMEA establishes support fund:

Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) has set up a support fund for the affected families who have lost their lives in the tragedy of fire in a factory in Baldia Town.

A meeting was held in PRGMEA office following the terrible fire incident at a garment factory in Karachi, which was largely attended the leading textile manufacturers and exporters. During the meeting PRHMEA members offered their deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in this tragedy.

It was decided that a support fund for the rehabilitation will be created immediately and all members of PRGMEA shall contribute in the same. The attendees offered their full co-operation and support to the affected families and resolved that the garment industry shall give employment to all the skilled workers while vocational training will be imparted to families and children of the deceased workers.
read more.

* Spotlight on social compliance:

The horrific images of the recent twin factory fire incidents in leading metropolitan cities — Karachi and Lahore — have turned spotlight on the poor working conditions in the country’s industrial units.

Many Western importers, fearing ire of their consumers for dealing with socially irresponsible suppliers, are believed to have cancelled their orders and put some fresh negotiations for new deals on hold. There are reports that these orders have been diverted to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The real overall impact will become clear over the weeks and months ahead while many stress the need to vigorously counter the country’s adverse image created by the tragic incidents.

The garment exporters did try to brush two fires aside as unusual accidents, ignoring Ali Enterprise’s (in Karachi) Social Accountability ranking at 800th. It is a common knowledge that the bulk of garment business have been set up at even worse locations, having hazardous working environment.

Pakistan Readymade Garment Exporters Association suggested, through a press release, that they were considering introducing a system of self-monitoring for improving factory conditions to match international standards. “They will need to walk their talk before anyone notices them”, commented a labour economist.
read more.

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20121001

* No factory check sans business community representative-Teli:

Siraj Kassam Teli Chairman Businessmen Group has informed that industrialists had held a meeting with Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ibad Khan in presence of Commissioner & Deputy Commissioners.
It was agreed upon that in order to ‘discourage corruption’ no inspector would be allowed to enter the factory without a Business Community representative. In case of an anomaly the concerned industrialist would be given a timeframe to mend the glitch. Addressing the General Body Meeting at Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry held here at Aiwan-e-Tijarat on Saturday, Teli also regretted registration of case under 302crpc against owners of ill-fated factory in Baldia Town.

Meanwhile, addressing a Press Conference here at Karachi Press Club, Karamat Ali Executive Director Pakistan Institute of Labor Education & Research (PILER) has noted that labor laws, affirming universal right to social & economic well-being of the workers were grossly violated here, although Pakistan was a signatory of 38 ILO Conventions. PILER Chief asserting on the need of ensuring inspections of factories, maintained that Factories Act provided provisions of workers’ safety.

He also pointed out that ILO had expressed concern over the non-implementation of factories inspection in Pakistan: “At its 100th session, ILO had noted in the report that Pakistan adopted a national enforcement policy in 2006, which embodied the government commitment to implementing inspection & enforcing the law. Such a program sets the functions, goals & strategic objectives of labor inspection, the strategy for involving the main actors & approaches & means of action”.read more.

* Faryal distributes cheques among relatives of victims:

PPP leader and MNA Faryal Talpur on Sunday gave away compensation cheques to 31 relatives of fire victims of shoe factory, Bund Road in a ceremony here at Governor’s House.

Addressing the cheque distribution ceremony, she said that not only political parties but all of us should come forward to help the people who were affected in different incidents.

She said that there should be proper rules and regulations to check such like incidents besides ensuring the availability of safety equipments including escape route and others fire fighting equipments in the factories.

She thanked Malik Riaz of Bahria Town and Goodwill Ambassador for Orphan children Jahanara Wattoo for taking initiative to help the fire victims.

She urged the provincial governments to visit industrial areas and properly inspect them to ensure that no such incident take place in future.

She said that this money could never be the alternate of lives but the PPP was giving this money to the family members of affectees to tell them that the government is with them in this time of trial. read more. & read more.
  

* Workers’ safety and rights issues:

The Baldia Town inferno, described as the most tragic industrial disaster incident in the country, has brought into glaring focus not only a lingering obliviousness to occupational safety but a range of underlying labour right issues.

In a tribunal hearing, the owners of the factory have denied allegations of inadequate safety measures and are instead blaming the fire department for being unable to effectively control the flames. The fire department has in turn blamed short-circuiting due to power fluctuations for causing the fire in the first place. Moreover, in the aftermath of the Karachi incident, the Sindh labour minister even pointed a finger at the chief minister of Sindh for preventing action against those factories violating labour rights.

Such blame-shifting is not only confusing but also indicative of the continuing tendency to keep ignoring the underlying causes of problems until they explode into full-scale tragedies. read more.

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20121002

* 35 families of Karachi fire victims paid pensions:

The Senate Standing Committee on ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) was informed on Monday that the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) had paid pension to the families of 35 martyrs of Karachi factory fire while in total the families of all 295 martyrs would be paid pensions and other benefits.

The statement was made by Director-General (DG) Operations, EOBI, Javed Iqbal, during briefing on the EOBI affairs. Earlier, Secretary, ministry of HRD, Ahsan Raja, briefed the committee over the subject matter and said that action would be taken against those officials who had failed to register all the employees working at the factory which caught fire in Baldia Town, Karachi.

He said that around 3000 labourers were working in the factory but the employer had registered only 513 with the EOBI. However, he added that out of the 295 fire victims, 254 were registered. He added that pension forms had been issued to the families of all 295 people burnt alive in the incident by the EOBI and all families would be compensated. read more.

* Owners of Karachi fire factory granted bail till Oct 6:

A session Court of Karachi on Monday granted interim bail to three owners of the Ali Enterprises, a factory that was gutted in deadly fire that killed at least 258 people, till October 6.

Police in Karachi had registered a murder case against the owners of the factory Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila on Sept 13.
Additional District and Sessions Judge (West) Abdullah Channah directed them to submit surety of one million each.

The attorney of the owners said that his clients should be given chance to present their point of view.
He said that his clients were not leaving the country as their pass-ports have already been confiscated. Adding that, their accounts have also been frozen. The court ordered that accused should not be intimidated.
read more.
& read more. & read more. & read more.

* Owners granted interim bail; six others remanded:

Additional District and Sessions Judge (West) Abdullah Channa on Monday granted interim bail against a surety of Rs1 million each to the three owners of Ali Enterprises, a garments factory in Baldia Town where a massive fire had killed 259 people last month.

The court fixed October 13 for the confirmation of bail of Shahid Bhaila, Arshad Bhaila and Abdul Aziz Bhaila.The investigation officer, Jehanzeb, was directed to produce all legal documents relating to the case of the death of 259 people in the Category 3 blaze in at the factory.

The owners had also obtained bail from a Sindh High Court bench housed in Larkana.Advocate Amir Mansoor Qureshi, who pleaded the bail pleas of the factory owners, alleged that the investigation officer was trying to victimise his clients by issuing threats. He prayed to the court to grant bail before arrest to his clients.
read more.

* Contractor remanded in police custody:

The contractor who supplied workers to Ali Enterprises’ factory, which was engulfed by fire on September 11, has been remanded to police custody for two days.

The contractor, Mansoor Ahmed, had been nominated in cases of murder and attempted murder of the factory’s workers. The police presented him before Judicial Magistrate West Sohail Ahmed Mashoori, asking for Ahmed to be remanded to their custody for interrogation.

The judicial magistrate granted their request and remanded Ahmed to police custody for two days. The remand of the factory’s security guards, Fazal Khan, Arshad, Ali Mehmood, Hanif and Majid, was also extended. to read.

* ‘It’s the fire survivors that need attention now’:

Amidst the daily bustle of Baldia Town, people walk by the Ali Enterprises garment factory pretending it doesn’t exist.

Even from afar, the factory’s gutted skeleton serves as a haunting reminder of the horrific tragedy that took place three weeks ago. The grills and nets on the windows are broken and ripped, giving a glimpse of the browned ceilings and walls inside.

Most of those who live in the nearby colony are convinced they hear “shouts and screams” at night. Many others have stopped using the road altogether. But for those who work in factories in the vicinity, there is no choice but to cross the remains of the factory – day after day.

250 people were killed in the Baldia Town factory fire, a tragedy is probably the most fatal industrial disaster in the country’s history. Though rescue workers had battled with the inferno to save those trapped inside, all they could manage to recover were piles upon piles of charred body parts.

“For four consecutive hours, my family and I heard screams and cries for help,” remembers Fakhar Aiwan, a labourer who lives in a nearby colony.

Fakhar, a father of three, says his children can no longer sleep until he returns home from work. “They say they can still hear people shouting for help. My wife tries telling them there’s no one there any more. But they keep crying and insist they can hear the screams,” he shares.

Nadeem Ahmed, a survivor of the fire and resident of sector 3, says he can no longer sleep peacefully at night. “Even if I do, I wake up with a start with the sound of screams in my ears,” he narrates. read more.

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20121003

* No action: District govt turns blind eye to factories in residential areas:

The district government is perhaps waiting for a repeat of the twin industrial fire accidents in Lahore and Karachi to justify action against illegal factories operating in the residential areas of Rawalpindi.         

Business activities cannot be carried out in residential areas and the Town Municipal Administration (TMA) officers are bound to ensure a conducive environment for residents under the Punjab Local Government Ordinance. But a survey of the garrison city, reveals that the ground reality is quite different.

Around 130 illegal factories are functioning in various residential areas of the city, out of which 40 are located in Khyaban-e-Sir Syed, Bagh Sardaran and Khyaban-e-Iqbal areas. read more.

* With only 4 days to go, Adil’s wedding plans cut short:

 On the evening of September 11, Mohammad Adil was very excited. At his workplace, he waited anxiously for his salary to be handed out so that he could rush off to Saddar. At a men’s boutique there, an off-white embroidered sherwani waited for him. In four days, Adil was to wear the sherwani on his wedding day.

But the 22-year-old, who wanted everything to be just right at the reception, never got to see his new clothes or get his salary. For that evening while he stood waiting at Ali Enterprises, a fire broke out at the ill-fated garment factory, burning him and his younger brother Asif alive. They were among the 259 people who lost their lives in the Baldia factory blaze.

Only a week ago, Adil’s humble house in Orangi Town No 7 echoed with wedding songs. It is now home to grief-stricken people. Shell-shocked, his mother sits in a corner staring into space. Though a week has passed since her two sons perished in the fire, she refuses to budge from that end.

Adil’s room which was decorated with buntings and streamers for his big day remains as it is. “We haven’t removed anything from here,” said Adil’s elder brother Raheel crying. “We can’t believe he is gone.”

Two months ago, Adil had married a colleague from the factory in court against the family’s wishes. But after much pleading, the family gave in to his wishes and decided to hold a joint valima reception for Adil and his older brother on September 15. Like Adil and Asif, Raheel also worked at the factory but was on leave for his wedding. The three brothers worked as machine operators on the third floor of the factory, where the highest number of deaths were reported. read more.

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20121004

* 22 days later, some victims remain unidentified:

For many people in Karachi the tragedy of the Baldia factory fire ended soon after. But for some families, every day the disaster reminds them of their loves ones, who haven’t been identified or worse, found yet.

Twenty-two days after the inferno at Ali Enterprises where 258 workers were burnt alive, 39 bodies are still unrecognisable, unidentified and unclaimed at the Edhi morgue at Sohrab Goth.

On Wednesday, trade unionists and family members of the victims called on the government to issue the DNA reports of the unidentified victims immediately or they would set up a protest camp outside the press club.

“For the past 22 days, the families have been struggling to find the bodies, but neither the hospitals nor any institution is helping them,” said Nasir Mansoor, the deputy general secretary of National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan, while speaking at a news conference along with the bereaved family members. read more.

* After three weeks, families told to wait 15 more days:

The families of those who perished in the garment factory blaze in Baldia are helplessly waiting for the DNA reports that will help them identify the charred remains of their loved ones.

“We were initially informed that we will get the DNA reports in 15 days.
But after the passage of three weeks, we have been told to wait for 15 more days,” a relative told the media on Monday.
The families had gathered at the press club to speak at a news conference arranged by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF).
“Why isn’t legal action being taken against the culprits? The government has not even provided the heirs with the compensation money it had announced.”
read more.

* Deadly Pakistan Factory Fire Raises Questions Over Safety Inspections:

A leading trade union in Pakistan says factories in that country are more like death traps than work places.

Last month, nearly 300 people were killed when fire swept through the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi.
It turns out the factory had recently been inspected and had received the highest possible safety rating, even though faulty wiring and unsafe chemicals were found at the factory after the fire. And while the building was burning down, locked doors may have prevented some people from escaping. In fact, some workers jumped out of windows to escape the flames.

The New York-based Social Accountability International certified the factory. The organization says its mission is to advance human rights of workers around the world.
But Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, said SAI and other monitoring companies aren’t reliable.
“While SAI claims that its mission is to advance the rights of workers around the world, what SAI really does is protect the reputations of apparel brands around the world,” Nova told Here & Now’s Robin Young. read more.

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20121005

* Baldia factory investigation: Gates were closed on orders of owners when fire started, say witnesses:

The interim challan submitted to the court on Thursday, about the fire at Ali Enterprises, revealed that the factory gates were closed on orders of the owners and the general manager when the fire broke out.

The main suspect in the case who had the factory keys, Shah Rukh, is still a figutive while the factory owners, Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, have been granted bail by the Rawalpindi High Court. The general manager, Mansoor Ahmed, is in police custody.
The fire that broke out on September 11 claimed the lives of 258 workers in one of Pakistan’s worst industrial incidents.

The SITE-B police submitted the Challan to the second Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate, West, Sohail Ahmed Mashori, and obtained a remand of the suspects till October 16.
According to three witnesses – Abdul Majeed, Nazir Ahmed and Zubair – Shah Rukh and other gatekeepers closed the gates on orders of Mansoor who received his instructions from the owners. read more.

* Watchmen remanded in police custody:

Three watchmen of the fire-wrecked garment factory in Baldia Town were remanded to police custody by a judicial magistrate on Thursday.

SITE police produced the three accused watchmen, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Muhammad and Ali Muhammad, before the court of Judicial Magistrate, West. Investigation officer (IO) told the court that according to initial investigations, watchmen locked the gates of the factory while salary was being disbursed among the workers. Judicial Magistrate, Sohail Ahmed Mashoori, remanded the accused to police custody till September 25 and directed the IO to submit case diaries on the next hearing. to read.

* Police find no evidence of arson in factory fire case:

Police have remained unable to arrive at any conclusion but mentioned gas leakage and short circuit as ‘possible causes’ of the fire in an interim charge-sheet filed in a court on Thursday in the Baldia fire-wrecked factory case.

While the case investigation officer in the interim charge-sheet stated that no evidence had been found to link the tragedy with arson, he accused the labour department, fire brigade, civil defence, Sindh Building Control Authority, Sindh Employees Social Security Institution and SITE of non-cooperation in the probe.
read more.

* Police submit interim charge sheet:

An interim charge sheet pertaining to the Baldia factory fire case was submitted in a local court here Thursday, DawnNews reported.

A garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town area suffered one of the nation’s worst industrial disasters last month when an enormous inferno swallowed down the factory, killing at least 258. Police currently is investigating the tragedy.
Police alleged that concerned departments were not cooperating in the investigation and neither have the DNA tests of some of the victims been conducted yet.

According to the police, SITE Association, Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA), Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC), Sindh Employees Social Security Institution, the civil defence, fire brigade, labour and other departments were not cooperating with investigators in the probe.
One of the important suspects in the case, the manager of the factory, is reportedly still at large.

The court ordered the police to arrest the factory manager and present him for the next hearing. Moreover, it had directed the police to identify those responsible for the disaster and submit a final charge sheet by Oct 16.
The court subsequently adjourned the hearing until Oct 16. to read.

* Court dissatisfied with incomplete charge sheet:

Judicial Magistrate (West-II) Sohail Ahmed Mashori on Thursday ordered the investigation officer (IO) in the Baldia factory fire case to submit the final charge sheet within 14 days.

The judge remarked that the IO had filed an incomplete interim charge sheet that did not provide details of the fire incident in which 259 people had died on September 11.
Expressing his dissatisfaction, he said the charge sheet did not mention the role of the owners of the ill-fated factory, Ali Enterprises, and relevant civic agencies, including the Civil Defence, Fire Brigade and Sindh Building Control Authority.

The IO however explained that the final charge sheet would provide each and every detail. He denied that any explosive materials were used in the industrial unit.
He pointed out that he had written letters to the SBCA director and other officials representing the Civil Defence, Fire Brigade, lahour department and others, seeking assistance in probing the cause of the fire. He said a government official of Grade-18 could coordinate and investigate the cause of the fire. read more.

* A rally was organized in solidarity with the victims:

A rally was organized in solidarity with the victims of families at Karachi and Lahore Factory Workers by Pakistan Textile Garments and Leather Workers Federation (PTGLWF) under the president ship of Mr. Aslam Wafa at Faisalabad on 30-09-2012.

Large numbers of workers from different factories of Textile,Garments and Power looms joined the rally.
The rally was started from District Council Hall and ended at Press Club Faisalabad.

At the end Mr. Aslam Wafa President (PTGLWF),Faqeer Hussain Saghar Chairnman (PTGLWF) , Afzal Awan President Jahanbaaz Labour Federation Punjab and Sajid Hussain Office bearer of Power Looms Workers Union Spoke and demanded that the Government should:
1. Pay the compensation to the all families whose members were lost their lives or   injured during the incident.
2.The responsible persons must be made an accountable and no concession must be given to the owners of Ali Enterprises ( Karachi Garments) and Lahore Shoe Factory.
3. It should be ensured that the health and safety measures be fully implemented in all factories.
4. The labour inspection be made meaningful and effective and those  who failed to comply with the law strain action be taken against them .
5. A consultation be organised at Government level where all trade unions and employers be called to make appropriate recommendations for health and safety .

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2012107

* Court rejects Bhaila brothers’ interim bail, orders arrest:

A local court on Saturday rejected interim bail of Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila, the owners of Ali Enterprises, the gutted Baldia Town garments factory, and General Manager Mansoor Ahmed; however, it granted bail confirmation of Abdul Aziz Bhaila, the father of Shahid and Arshad.

Additional District and Session Judge (ADJ), Karachi (West) Abdullah Channa was hearing an application for bail confirmation submitted by owners of gutted garment factory Abdul Aziz Bhaila, Arshad and Shahid Bhaila to confirm them interim bail.

The court granted bail confirmation to Abdul Aziz on the basis of his age and bad health factors, while the ADJ rejected bail confirmation application of his two sons Shahid and Arshad and ordered their arrest.

During the proceeding of the applications, senior superintendent of police Saqib Sultan and investigation officer of the case, applicants’ counsel and government prosecutor were also present in the court.
read more.
& read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
        
  

* Two of three Ali Enterprises owners sent to jail:


Arshad Bhaila, one of the owners of Ali Enterprises, after attending court on Saturday. PHOTO: PPI

Two of the three owners of the ill-fated garment factory, where 258 people were burnt alive on September 11, have been sent to jail as their police custody ran out.

The judicial magistrate VI, Muhammad Afzal Roshan, turned down the police’s request to grant them more time to question Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila. The businessmen surrendered in court after their request for bail was dismissed by a district and sessions court. The police were, however, allowed to investigate the suspects inside prison.

The two brothers have been sent to jail until October 16. The police had requested the court for 14 days to interrogate them in order to complete the list of charges, but the Bhaila lawyer, Amir Mansoob Qureshi, argued that the police have already prepared an interim charge sheet and his clients have been held responsible for the fire. read more  & read more.
 

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20121009

* Workers’ Rights Movement in Pakistan Gains Momentum: Court Orders Arrest of Ali Enterprises Owners:

It is Saturday, October 6th, 8:30 AM and members of the Workers’ Rights Movement in Pakistan are out front of the City Court in Karachi, protesting to make sure that bail is not granted again to the owners of the garment factory Ali enterprises, where 289 workers died on September 11th in the deadliest factory fire in history to date. 

The owners have been granted bail three times already, on September 14, on September 21, and on October 1: catastrophic kicks in the stomach to efforts of trade unions, labor rights activists and factory workers, and families of victims to hold the owners responsible for atrocious conditions that led to the fires, and properly mourn the deaths of their friends, coworkers and family. So today workers and family members are out in numbers, bearing pictures of the dead and signs demanding justice. They are making sure that this does not happen again. Already in the early morning there is a small victory: all major news channels have broken the news about the demonstration outside of the courthouse.

The proceedings begin. The District Judge Abdullah Channa is listening to arguments presenting evidence that the factory gates were closed on orders of the owners and the general manager after the fire broke out. At the very least this amounts to unpardonable criminal negligence. Already at 10am the proceeding ends, but District Judge Channa withholds his judgment. read more.

* Cheque for families of victim of factory fire:

The representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad, handed over cheque granted by China amounting to Rs 2 million to the Chief Secretary Sindh, Raja Muhammad Abbas, for the families of victims of fire tragedy at Karachi.

It is stated that a simple ceremony in this regard was held at the Chief Secretary House on Monday morning.
The Deputy Chief Protocol, Rehan Naseer Siddiqui, handed over the cheque to Chief Secretary on behalf of the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan.
Secretary Labour Arif Illahi and Commissioner Karachi, Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi, were also present. The disbursement thereof would be made by the Commissioner of Karachi. to read.

* Baldia fire mystery deepens as 70 persons still missing:

As the report of the Sindh government’s inquiry tribunal set up to investigate the Baldia Town factory inferno is keenly awaited, the mystery behind the deadly incident is deepening with each passing day, with more than 70 families of missing Ali Enterprises workers still looking for their loved ones and 39 charred bodies being kept at the Edhi morgue.

While the authorities are firm on 259 deaths in the last month’s tragic incident, the number of persons who were inside the industrial unit at the time of the fire and missing since put a serious question mark over their fate and the total number of casualties.

Background interviews with grieving families and interaction with labour and non-governmental organisations engaged with these families after the tragedy suggest that there are more than 70 families in the Baldia Town, Orangi Town and SITE whose loved ones have not yet returned home after the fire incident, which has turned the Ali Enterprise factory into a haunted place. read more.

* Govt told to speed up victims’ identification:

Finally there’s some hope for some 70 families whose beloved remain unidentified almost a month after the tragic Baldia factory fire.

The Sindh High Court has told the Sindh government to speed up the DNA matching process to identify the remaining victims of the country’s worst industrial disaster. The court has also ordered the authorities to submit the complete details of those killed or injured in the tragedy and provide compensation to the bereaved families.

On Monday, Justice Maqbool Baqir, heading a two-member bench, was hearing five similar petitions filed by different non-governmental organisations seeking judicial inquiry of the garment factory inferno that claimed 258 lives on September 11.

The petitioners’ lawyer, Faisal Siddiqui, moved a miscellaneous application to call complete details from the Sindh government of how many government departments or private bodies had announced compensation and who had so far given the money to the victims’ families or the survivors. read more.

* SHC orders expediting DNA testing of bodies:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday directed provincial government to expedite process of conducting DNA test of nearly 70 bodies of unidentified people who lost lives in deadly fire in garments factory in Baldia town last month.

A division bench, headed by Justice Maqbool Baqir, also directed all concerned to submit complete details of those killed or injured in the tragedy and provision of monetary compensation to their families.

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and others non-profit organisations had filed five petitions, seeking judicial inquiry into Baldia factory inferno incident that claimed over 250 lives and injured many others on September 11, 2012.

Petitioners had sought constitution of judicial commission to fix responsibility on persons responsible for incident and suggest monetary compensation to legal heirs of inferno victims. read more. & read more.
  
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20121010

* Witnesses forced to testify against accused, JM told:

In an unexpected move, two eyewitnesses deposed on Tuesday against police for allegedly detaining and coercing them to testify against the accused in the Baldia factory fire case.

On a request of the investigation officer, a judicial magistrate recorded the statements of Abdul Majeed, an accountant, and Mohammad Zubair, a supervisor, under Section 164 of the criminal procedure code in the presence of the suspects.
Both the witnesses said they were present at the industrial unit when the deadly fire engulfed it and deposed that they had been in police custody for around three weeks and forced to sign the statements recorded by the IO under Section 161 of the CrPC.

They alleged that the investigators were pressing them to depose against the accused in order to strengthen the case of the prosecution.
They deposed that in case of non-compliance, the police had allegedly extended threats to them and their families. read more.

* Two witnesses testify factory doors were open:

The Baldia factory fire’s investigation took a turn on Tuesday when two of the 301 witnesses testified against the police in a district and sessions court, saying that their previous statements were “forced”.

On September 11, Karachi saw one of its worst industrial fires at Ali Enterprises in which 258 workers were burnt or suffocated to death.
According to the two witnesses, Muhammad Zubair and Abdul Majeed, they were pressured by the police to say that the factory doors were closed when the fire started. They informed the court on Tuesday that the doors were open and that is how some of the workers managed to escape as there was no other way out.

Zubair, supervisor of the finishing department in Ali Enterprises, stated before the court that he was present on his floor when the fire started and informed the labourers about it.
“I started evacuating my floor through the stairs as soon as I learnt about the fire,” he said. “Around 100 women and 80 men escaped through the main gate.”

Zubair alleged that he was tortured in police custody for the last 22 days and needed protection for himself and his family. “My life is in danger and I need protection,” he urged the judge. read more.

* Police accused of extorting statements against Baldia factory owners:

Two witnesses in the Baldia garments factory fire case recorded fresh statements on Tuesday accusing police of forcing them to record false statements against the owners of the industrial unit.

Appearing before Judicial Magistrate (West-II) Sohail Ahmed Mashori, the two witnesses – accounts manager Abdul Majeed and supervisor Zubair of the ill-fated factory — withdrew their earlier statements recorded by the investigation officer under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Majeed said he was arrested 25 days back and forced by police into giving evidence against the owners of the factory, where a Category 3 blaze had killed 259 workers on September 11.

He claimed that the owners of the factory had provided full assistance in saving at least 82 male and female workers from the inferno.
Zubair backed Majeed’s account and said the police had forced them to record their statements against the owners. read more.

* IO allowed to record two owners’ statements:

Judicial Magistrate (West-II) Sohail Ahmed Mashori on Monday allowed a plea of the investigation officer (IO) to record statements of Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila, two of the owners of the ill-fated garments factory in Baldia Town where a fire had killed 259 workers last month.

IO Jahanzeb was empowered to get the custody of the two and bring them to court on October 9 so their evidence could be recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The investigation officer said Additional District and Sessions Judge (West) Abdullah Channa had not confirmed the bail of the two owners and had sent them to prison on Saturday, enabling him to investigate the case with the permission of the court.
read more.

* China donates Rs2m to victims’ heirs:

The Chinese government has donated Rs2 million to the families of the victims who died in the Baldia factory fire. The foreign affairs ministry’s deputy chief of protocol, Rehan Naseer Siddiqui, handed over the cheque to the Sindh chief secretary, Raja Muhammad Abbas, at a meeting held at the chief secretary house on Monday. The labour secretary, Arif Illahi, and the newly appointed commissioner of Karachi, Hashim Raza Zaidi, were also present. to read.

* Businessmen warn opting full shutdown:

Business community in Karachi remains extremely disturbed and may opt for a complete shut down if the government did not take stringent measures to control deteriorating law and order situation, warned leader of the business community S M Muneer.

Addressing as a chief guest at a dinner reception in honor of newly elected Chairman Korangi Association of Trade and Industry, Mohammad Zubair Chhaya by DSI Group at a local hotel, Muneer said that in a meeting of trade and industry’s representatives it was decided to shut down trade and industry across the country for two days.
(….)
On the issue of Baldia Town tragedy Muneer said that it was not possible that a factory owner having Rs.2 billion exports put his own factory on fire. He said that the factory should be reopened so that over 1,500 workers rendered jobless should be given employment.   read more.

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20121011

* SHC calls for comments on Baldia fire tragedy:

* Directs civic, law enforcement, building control and factories  regulatory bodies to submit their reports

The Sindh High Court on Wednesday once again directed civic, law enforcement, building control and factories regulatory bodies to submit their respective reports regarding the devastating fire in garment factory fire that killed over 280 people alive in Baldia town last month.

A division bench, headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam, repeated notice after none of government departments filed comments despite issuance of direction to them on the last hearing.
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and other non-governmental organisations had moved the court to seek judicial probe into Baldia town factory inferno that killed over 280 workers on September 11, 2012.
Petitioners had sought constitution of a judicial commission to fix responsibility for incident and suggest monetary compensation to legal heirs of inferno victims.
read more. & read more.
 

* JI will pay for orphans till Matric:

The Jamaat-e-Islami has distributed initial amount of Rs5 million to about 200 families affected by the September 11 fire at a factory in Baldia. It will also pay a monthly stipend of Rs2,500 for each child of a victim till they matriculate. The orphaned girls would be fully assisted till they complete their education.

JI Pakistan chief Syed Munawar Hassan distributed the cheques at a small ceremony at the party’s Karachi headquarter on Wednesday.
He admitted that it was a small amount and could not compensate for the lives lost but it would hopefully mitigate some of the financial problems.

So far 259 people have been declared dead in the incident. Out of this 202 were residents of Baldia and Orangi towns, six from the central district, one from Bin Qasim. Also, 39 bodies have yet to be identified. The heirs of 11 victims have not approached any government authority. to read.

* Mourning day:

This refers to the PPP’s decision of observing a day of mourning on Oct 8 for those who were killed in a firing incident at a PPP gathering in Khairpur.

A few weeks ago, almost 300 people perished in a fire accident in a Karachi factory but the Sindh government did not announce any mourning for them.
This is just one example.
Let us rise above political affiliations and think for every life in Pakistan, regardless of ethnic or religious origins.

to read.

* Factory certification body fails to assist victims of Karachi factory fire:

Labour rights groups call upon Social Accountability International (SAI) to release information on brand buyers and factory audit reports

* Victims of tragic factory fire in Pakistan are denied  crucial information to hold brand buyers accountable

* SAI and SAAS refuse to cooperate in identifying international buyers that were at the factory or release the findings of accredited auditors

* SA8000 certification gave clean bill of health to Ali Enterprises factory that went up in flames and cost the lives of nearly 300 garment workers

Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN), International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)  and the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF) are calling upon New York-based Social Accountability International (SAI) and its related body Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) to release information about the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Pakistan, where 300 workers were killed in a factory fire last month. Ali Enterprises had received an SA8000 certification for decent working conditions from the SAAS-accredited Italian auditor Registro Italiano Navale Group (RINA) only one month prior to the tragedy.

The SA8000 standard, developed and promoted by SAI, applies to all industrial sectors and is supposed to guarantee that production takes place under decent working conditions. The standard includes respect for human and labour rights, a prohibition of child labour, and protection of health and safety in the workplace.

On 11th of September 2012 nearly 300 workers were killed when fire ripped through the factory which was producing jeans for export. The factory was not legally registered with the Pakistan government and had failed to provide the majority of workers with employment contracts. The high death toll resulted from inadequate fire exits, blocked staircases and barred windows, preventing many workers from escaping the blaze.

Says Nasir Mansoor from the National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan: ‘It is unbelievable that major apparel companies and accreditation bodies are hiding their involvement in the Ali Enterprises factory or denying their responsibility for the fire. The families of the deceased and injured workers deserve full transparency about the role of auditing organisations that gave a clean bill of health to the factory’s safety, and the brands that were able to make profits at the expense of workers’ safety.’

In an answer to a letter from the coalition of international labour rights groups, SAI and SAAS denied any responsibility for the fire, citing confidentiality agreements as the reason neither they nor the Italian auditing company, RINA, can share any information they possess about the factory. They claim that RINA and SAAS are both conducting investigations, but refuse to share their information with the worker representatives in Pakistan.

‘The terrible events of the 11th September highlight the weaknesses of the SAI certification system, which has badly let down those it is paid to protect,’ said Deborah Lucchetti of the Italian Clean Clothes Campaign. ‘If SAI is to maintain any credibility it must drop the veil of secrecy it is currently hiding behind and start cooperating with those groups working for justice for the victims of the Ali Enterprises fire.’
read more. & read more.

   

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20121212

* Agonising wait ends as seven factory fire victims identified:

News of the death of loved ones in the Baldia garments factory fire last month must have been devastating. What is equally agonising is the wait many families have had to face for the identification of victims burnt beyond recognition. For seven families, that wait ended on Thursday.

The Edhi Foundation received the bodies of seven victims after DNA tests, and sent them to their families.

The victims identified are Mohammad Hanif, resident of Orangi Town, Mohammad Asif, resident of Baldia Town, Mohammad Imran, resident of Nazimabad, Mohammad Israr, resident of Baldia Town, Amna Bibi, wife of Allah Bukhsh, resident of Baldia Town, Masood ul Hassan, resident of Federal B Area, and Mohammad Faizan, resident of Baldia Town.

Edhi officials insist they received 202 bodies at their Sohrab Goth morgue, while government officials have put the death toll at 259.  read more.

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20121014

* Health, safety for factory workers demanded:

Demanding provision of health and safety for workers at factories, scores of labourers, factory workers and trade union members staged a protest outside Lahore Press Club on Saturday.
All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF) had organised the protest against price hike, worst load shedding, absence of labour laws, ban on trade unions, absence of health and safety issues of workers, minimum wages for workers, poor economic condition of Pakistan Railways, privatisation and poor law and order situation in country.
The protesters urged the government to implement labour laws in the country besides ensuring minimum wages for workers.
They demanded capital punishment for those who were responsible for more than 370 deaths in fire incidents in factories of Karachi and Lahore.
They also shouted slogans against ant-labour policies of the government “that are supporting capitalist policies”.
Labour leaders, speaking on the occasion, said that Pakistan was signatory of 38 ILO conventions and all the country’s labour laws affirmed the universal right to social and economic well being of workers.

According to protesters, 99 percent workers do not have “any kind of social security and old age benefit because the condition for it is to have a permanent job in a factory and permanent jobs are very rare these days as most of the workers are hired on contracts or on daily wages. Unions don’t exist in most of the industrial sector, which is encouraged by rulers”.
They said there is also no justice for workers in labour courts.
read more.

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20121015

* Factory fire: misery of victims’ kin:

After the Baldia factory fire tragedy, every other day there is news that fire erupted in some other factory in the Site area. Whenever there is such news, one recalls terrible scenes.

Beside this, certain questions come to mind such as in the future what will happen in case of a fire in any factory as we do not have trained fire brigade. Ill-trained staff is dangerous as more lives will be at stake. When fire breaks out, it spreads very fast and workers having no knowledge and experience are vulnerable. Appointment of political workers in this sensitive department is a big question.

The civil defence is another department which is in a pathetic condition. No one from this department comes to inspect factories. Inspectors responsible for this job do not perform their duties. They should check fire extinguishers installed in factories. Firefighting rehearsals should be performed periodically.
But it would be possible only when high-ups of this department feel that this is their primary responsibility.

Labour inspectors should fulfil responsibilities of their their duties regularly. They should check what kind of facilities and benefits are available. If there are no facilities, they should try to improve the conditions and make sure that laws are implemented. read more.

* Workplace fires: ‘Prepare because you never think it could happen to you’ :


The Baldia factory fire, in which 259 people died, has brought to light how unaware people are at the workplace when a fire breaks out. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

If details such as the load on one electrical outlet, gap in ventilation pipes and blocked emergency exits are overlooked at a workplace, it could cost you your life if a fire breaks out.

The Baldia factory fire, in which 259 people died, has brought to light how unaware people are at the workplace when a fire breaks out. It has also thrown into relief the incomprehensive training of firefighters.
To educate people, volunteers from the Fire Protection Association of Pakistan held a workshop on Saturday, to train staff from safety companies and businesses on how to deal with such emergencies.

“The companies are now realising how important the subject is,” said the secretary of the association and one of the trainers, Tariq Moen. The factory fire was not taken seriously enough as only eight companies out of the 50 invited sent staff for the one-day training session. “We take precautions for granted,” said Moen.  Moen pointed out that you don’t walk in a room filled with smoke because the fumes rise towards the roof. “The best way is to crawl and drag the injured to safety on your knees.” read more.

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20121016

* Urge KIK to identify buyers and pay compensation to Pakistan fire victims:

On the left, jeans in a Kik shop in Germany. On the right, labels found in the ashes in Pakistan

On Tuesday 11th September almost 300 workers were killed when a fire ripped through the  Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi, Pakistan. At the time of the fire the factory was producing jeans for the German low cost retailer, KIK, which has more that 3000 stores in eight European countries.

Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, it is clear that the high death toll was caused by appalling health and safety conditions at the factory. At the time of the fire windows were closed with bars, fire exits were locked and there was no equipment available to fight the fire.

The factory had been regularly audited in recent years, yet the factory itself was not legally registered and had failed to provide employment contracts.

Although KIK was forced to acknowledge their role in the tragedy, they have since refused to engage in meaningful discussion and have taken no action to provide remedy in this case.

KIK has claimed that extensive auditing taking place in the years since 2006 lead to improvements in the fire safety regulations. The events of 11th September prove that such improvements were clearly insufficient. The audits failed to show that the factory was running illegally, the lack of fire exits and the fact that all windows were barred, leaving no way for the smoke to escape. KIK needs to admit that its audit process is not reliable. The audit did not prevent the deaths of almost 300 workers and does not exempt KIK from responsibility in this case. (…)

Now is not the time for excuses: call on KIK now to demand they:

* ensure transparency;
* ensure compensation to the victims;
* take all measurements to prevent future disasters;
* support and participate in the investigation.

read more & Please, take a moment to sign our Urgent Appeal.

* Court to announce order on Baldia investigation today (Tuesday):

A court will announce its order on Tuesday (today) on how investigation authorities should proceed further in the case against the owners of the Ali Enterprises, in whose Baldia Town factory a devastating fire claimed the lives of nearly 300 people.

The Additional District and Sessions Judge (West), after hearing the arguments of the prosecution and the defense counsels, reserved its order for October 16. Investigation Officer (IO) Sub-Inspector Jehanzeb moved an application praying that the court cancel the judicial custody of the two owners of Ali Enterprises, Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila, and hand them over to police custody for an investigation.
read more.

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20121017

* Failure to bring accused to court irks magistrate:

The court hearing the Baldia factory fire case expressed its annoyance on Friday over the jail authorities’ failure to produce the six accused who were previously remanded.

Judicial Magistrate (West-II) Sohail Ahmed Mashori ordered the authorities to now produce the accused before the court on October 23. The court also directed the DIG to monitor the situation.
The magistrate asked the investigation officer of the case, Jahanzeb, to ensure that reports about the functioning and liabilities of the civic agencies on the day of the fire, in which over 250 people were killed, were submitted before the court.

The six accused include Mansoor Idrees, the general manager of the ill-fated garment factory, and employees dealing with security matters, security supervisor Arshad Mehmood, Majid Beg, Haneef and watchmen Ali Muhammad and Fazal Ahmed. read more.

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20121018

* Court orders jailer to present factory owners:

The central jail superintendent has been told by a court to explain why he failed to produce the Baldia garment factory owners in court on Tuesday.

Ali Enterprises owners, Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila, the factory’s general manager, Mansoor Ahmed, and security guards Fazal Ahmed, Ali Muhammad and Arshad Mehmood were to appear before the Judicial Magistrate West to testify in the factory fire case, relating to the death of 259 people on September 11.

On Tuesday, the defence lawyers said that the court had issued production orders for the suspects but the jail authorities didn’t bring them to the court. The lawyers had requested the court to take action against the jailers.

The case investigation officer told the court that an application has been filed in a sessions court to allow interrogation of the suspects. The investigation cannot proceed without the court’s decision on the application. The officer requested the court to grant more time to submit the final charge-sheet. read more.

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20121019

* Baldia fire case: Court allows police plea for custody:

A sessions court on Thursday allowed an application filed by police seeking the custody of the Bhaila brothers and factory’s general manager in the Baldia fire case.

Setting aside an order of a judicial magistrate who sent the suspects to jail on judicial remand, additional district and sessions judge (west) Abdullah Channa directed the jail authorities to hand over the custody of Arshad Bhaila, Shahid Bhaila and Mansoor to the police investigators between dawn and dusk for a couple of days.

The judge ordered the investigating officer to get the custody of the suspects on Oct 19 and 20 after the sunrise and bring them back to the prison before the sunset, with a direction that the suspects be interrogated only at the Site-B police station.
The court also directed jail officials to hold medical check-up of the suspects before handing them over to the police and after getting back their custody. read more.

* Court remands owners into ‘dusk to dawn’ police custody:

The owners and general manager of the garment factory in Baldia Town, Ali Enterprises, were remanded into police custody for two days – but only from sunrise to sunset.

The fifth additional and sessions judge, West, Abdullah Channah, gave custody of the two factory owners, Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, and general manager Mansoor Ahmed to the police on Thursday.

The judge directed jail authorities to hand over the suspects to the investigating officer, Jahanzaib Khan, from sunrise to sunset on October 19 and 20. He further instructed the jail authorities to medically examine the suspects before they go for interrogation and after they return. The medical certificates of these examinations will be submitted in court.

According to the court’s orders, the suspects will be kept in the limits of SITE B police station and cannot be taken anywhere else for interrogation. The investigating officer and jail authorities were asked to strictly follow the timings.
read more.
& read more.
    

* Labourers’ body to protest tomorrow:

The Workers Rights Movement (WRM) has announced to observe mourning day on October 20 (Saturday) on the occasion of Chelum of labourers who were burnet alive in Baldia factory inferno.

The WRM, which represents more than 70 organisations including trade unions, political, social and human rights associations, has also announced to organise a condolence meeting in front of Ali Enterprises on Saturday to offer prayers for around 300 workers who lost their lives in the fire incident.

This was announced by Nasir Mansoor while addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Thursday. He was flanked by Usman Baloch, Ghulam Muhammad Jadoon, Zahra Khan and other WRM representatives.

Mansoor said that the government acted in a completely irresponsible manner after the September 11 fire incident as it did to take any effective measures to prevent such incidents in future, which shows that the government was least bothered about the issues of working class. read more.

* Baldia factory blaze: Forget the toll, it’s just about closure now:

A month-and-a-half since the disaster, there is no official record, no list, no names being put forward by authorities of how many were present the day the fire broke out, or an exact death toll. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

The flames may have long been extinguished, but the ghosts of the ill-fated Baldia Town factory continue to haunt.

For Rasheeda, a visit to the gutted factory is almost an everyday routine. In front of the sealed building, enclosed by police officers and containers, she puts forward the usual question about her son Khurshid.
“Has his body been found?”
“No bibi. Go away from here. No one can go inside.”

And just like any other day since September 11, she returns home with no news about her son, one of 259 people who perished in the flames of Pakistan’s largest factory fire. Rasheeda is from one of 70 families who all but know their fate, but continue to wait for that final closure.
A month-and-a-half since the disaster, there is no official record, no list, no names being put forward by authorities of how many people worked at the factory, how many were present the day the fire broke out, or an exact death toll.

Investigation Officer Jahanzaib Khan told The Express Tribune that he has requested the court to allow him to meet the owners of the factory to fetch records of the workers — both alive and deceased.
Jahanzaib has finally conceded that the number of workers feared dead might be much higher than what authorities have revealed officially.

“The death toll might be higher. The confusion would clear once we are allowed to retrieve information from the factory’s administration block which was safe from the fire.”
But with only 500 of the said 1,200 workers registered, this seems a daunting task, he adds.

With such discrepancies, chances of the number of workers who died in the inferno seem to be higher than the official toll of 259. The police officer has received 100 complaints of people gone missing in the factory fire. Social activists have put up a list of 74 victims whose bodies have not been found yet. read more.

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20121020

* Joint efforts urged to safeguard rights of workers:

The recent deadly fire incident in a Karachi garment factory, in which more than 300 workers were burnt alive, was the wake up call for protecting the rights of workers in Pakistan and this could be done only when all stakeholders took joint efforts, said speakers of a speakers of protest demonstration-cum-condolence meeting for martyred workers of Ali Enterprises.
The event was organised under the banner of Workers Right Movement (WRM) to pay the tribute to the victims of fire incident of the garment factory, Ali Enterprises, on the occasion of Chelum of deceased workers in front of the burnt factory in Baldia Town on Saturday.
A large number of workers participated in the condolence meeting. On the appeal of WRM in all industrial zones of Karachi, a ‘Mourning Day’ was observed and black flags were hoisted on industries to express solidarity with the victims of the fire incident.
The labourers’ representatives, on this occasion, paid glowing tribute to the martyrs of the fire incident and expressed their commitment to continue struggle till achieving rights for the workers.read more.to read.
   
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20121021

* SHC suspends owners’ remand into police custody:

The drama over the custody of the owners of the Baldia garment factory continued for the second consecutive day, as the Sindh High Court suspended the lower court’s order to remand the Bhaila brothers into police custody.

On Thursday, the fifth additional and sessions judge, West, Abdullah Channah, gave custody of the two factory owners, Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, and general manager Mansoor Ahmed to the police – only for two days and that too from sunrise to sunset. The court had also ordered medical examinations of the brothers before and after the interrogation. The Bhaila brothers approached the SHC on Friday through one of their relatives, who submitted that there was potential risk to their lives outside the prison. read more.

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20121024

* Court extends deadline for final list of charges to Nov 2:

The owners of Ali Enterprises, Arshad and Shahid Bhaila, appear for the hearing on Tuesday. PHOTO: PPI

The deadline for the final list of charges or challan in the Baldia factory fire case was extended to November 2 by the second judicial Magistrate, West, Sohail Ahmed Mashori, on Tuesday.

The case pertains to a September 11 fire that broke out in the factory, killing at least 289 workers in what was called the country’s worst industrial incident.
The investigating officer, Jahanzaib Khan, requested the court for more time to submit the challan as he said the police was still waiting on reports from different organisations.

Khan told the court that the factory was not built according to the approved construction plan and that machinery was blocking the exit and entry points inside. According to the fire brigade’s report, the fire did not start due to inflammatory materials.
Another reason for the delay in the submission of the challan, according to the officer, was that the owners of Ali Enterprises had not provided the factory data.
read more.

* Discounter Offers $1,930 Per Victim in Factory Fire:

German discount textile retailer Kik plans to pay damages totalling $500,000 to the families of more then 250 workers who died in a fire at a Pakistan factory used to produce its clothing. The families say that is too little and are threatening to sue.

Six weeks ago, at least 259 workers died in a fire in the Pakistani port city of Karachi at a factory that produced jeans for German discount textile and clothing retailer Kik. The disaster created unfavorable headlines for the Western company because it highlighted the poor working conditions of many who create the inexpensive products sold by discounter firms. This week, the company said it is planning to pay out a combined $500,000 (€383,700) to the families of the dead, a figure that works out to about $1,930 per victim.

“That’s not that much at all,” says Nasir Mansoor of Pakistan’s National Trade Union Federation (NTUF). “Furthermore, we don’t know when and how the payment is supposed to come through.” If the payout remains this low, then the worker’s families want to file suit against Kik. Their goal, according to Mansoor, is for every victim’s family to “receive acceptable compensation.

The factory, operated by Ali Enterprises, produced jeans that were sold for €15.99 in Kik stores under the “Okay” brand. The German retailer, based in the town of Bönen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, only admitted a connection to the factory after a non-governmental organization confronted the company. Kik executive Michael Arretz admitted that Kik was responsible for 75 percent of the factory’s orders. But employees with Ali Enterprises say that, without a doubt, “at least 90 percent” of the products produced there were intended for Kik. read more.

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20121025

* German firm to compensate Pakistan factory fire victims:

A German discount clothing retailer has agreed to pay more than $1.2 million compensation for victims of a Pakistani factory fire, a union leader said on Wednesday.

The blaze in September at the Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi, which made ready-to-wear garments for Western stores, killed 289 workers and injured 110 more.

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported in its online edition on Tuesday that the Kik chain, which the factory supplied with jeans, had agreed to pay a total of $500,000 compensation – less than $2,000 for every life lost.

Nasir Mansoor, head of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), a local union for Pakistani factory workers, said his organisation and the Clean Clothes Campaign (3-C), an international group striving for better conditions for garment workers, had forced Kik to up the compensation. read more. & read more. & read more.
    

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20121030* Textile discounter KIK makes cheap offer to victims of Pakistan garment
factory fire:

The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) calls on the german textile discounter KIK to pay a fair and just compensation for all the victims of the garment factory fire at Ali Enterprises in Pakistan. The immediate relief payments that KIK promised are urgently needed and welcomed, but the amount pledged covers less than 4% of what ultimately will be needed.

According to recent press articles KIK is presently offering an amount of 500.000 US$ for immediate relief to the victims of a fire that broke out September 11th at jeans manufacturer Ali Enterprises in Karachi and killed at least 318 workers.

Lars Stubbe from the CCC Germany says in regard to the KIK offer:
“The CCC appreciates that one month after the tragedy KIK as the main buyer and as one of Europe’s leading textile discounters finally is taking some responsibility for immediate relief. This first offer is seen as a part of a substantially higher payment of compensation.
CCC urges KIK to come to an agreement with local trade unions and labour rights groups to ensure that the entire amount due will be covered and prevention measures implemented.”

CCC believes that the offer of 1 million US$ in total (500.000 US$ for immediate relief and 500.000 US$ for the longer term that KIK confirms over email they are willing to make) is far too small.
Conservative calculations based on international standards and good practice indicate that at least 20 million Euro’s (about 25.8 million US$) will be needed for fair and just compensation, covering damages as well as loss of income, for the families of all deceased. On top of that medical costs and compensation for the injured will
need to be paid.

CCC appreciates that KIK has consulted credible local organisations on the distribution of the money for immediate relief and trusts that the funds are disbursed transparently and quickly to the suffering victims. However an agreement between KIK and the key local trade unions and organisations involved, including those consulted so far, on the entire amount due by KIK and on the implementation of
prevention measures is still outstanding.

“Immediate relief payments are urgently needed and welcomed, in particular to the families of the unidentified death who so far have received no compensation at all” says Ineke Zeldenrust of the international Secretariat of the CCC commenting KIKs’ activities.
“Initial payments can at a later date be deducted from the total amounts due.”
It seems that the moment though KIK is trying to pay off the terrible deaths of 318 workers who were producing their jeans with a cheap offer.
They can easily afford to pay much more: 1 million US$ corresponds to less than 0,05 % of their annual sales.

KIK has repeatedly stated publicly that the cause of the fire needs to be investigated. But up to date the company itself has done little to clarify its role, or to contribute to a full public investigation.

The CCC urges KIK yet again for more transparency, by fully declaring the history and nature of its relationship with AliEnterprises, by disclosing all of the audits undertaken by UL Responsible Sourcing (on behalf of KIK) and by providing the names  all other buyers producing clothes at Ali Enterprises.

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20121031

* Baldia fire tribunal report ready, to be made public once CM decides:


This file photo shows the burnt items inside Ali Enterprises, the factory which caught fire on September 11 and killed 259 workers. The tribunal formed by the Sindh government was given a week to ascertain the cause of the fire. It started proceedings on September 17 and wrapped up work within 12 days.

The inquiry tribunal into the Baldia garment factory fire in which 259 worker perished has concluded but can only be made public once the chief minister takes it up.

“We have communicated to the chief minister that the tribunal has done its job,” its head, Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Ali, told The Express Tribune. “We are waiting [to hear] whether the findings of the report will be unveiled by the CM himself or us.”
Waqar Mehdi, the special assistant to the CM, who deals with the press, said that the tribunal was given one week to submit its report, but it took more time. Then the CM left for the US before Eid. They would unveil it soon, he said.

A day after the fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia town, the Sindh government formed the tribunal headed by Justice Alvi on September 12. They were given a week to unearth the cause of the fire. It started proceedings on September 17 and wrapped up work within 12 days.
One and a half months have passed since it has been ready, but it has yet to be submitted to the chief minister.

Justice Alvi has reportedly approached CM House but always returned with a message that the CM will inform him of a convenient time to submit the findings.
The tribunal recorded the statements of more than 40 people including factory owners, police, workers (who survived the inferno), forensic experts, the fire brigade, labour and civil defence officials. The trade union leaders and medico legal officers who had conducted the autopsies also testified. read more.

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20121101

* Italy-based firm under fire for Karachi factory disaster :

Italy-based company RINA had issued a SA8000 certificate to Ali Enterprises just three weeks before the fire broke out on September 11, 2012. SA8000 is a compliance certification granted after an audit of a company’s policies, procedures and documentation, to ensure a safe workplace. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

The devastating inferno at a garment factory in Baldia Town, which claimed the lives of over 250 workers, raises some pressing concerns over the credibility of international safety certifications granted to local companies.

Italy-based company RINA had issued a SA8000 certificate to Ali Enterprises just three weeks before the fire broke out on September 11, 2012. SA8000 is a compliance certification granted after an audit of a company’s policies, procedures and documentation, to ensure a safe workplace.

“We have been continuously voicing concerns about local factories not following the labour laws of Pakistan completely,” Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) Executive Director Karamat Ali told The Express Tribune.
He added the practice of acquiring such certifications was a good one, but did not really reflect the working conditions of these factories.
“If Ali Enterprises was following basic safety standards, the fire would not have resulted in the loss of precious lives.” read more.

* Karachi factories safety standards appalling:

In September, 289 people died in a fire at a garment factory in Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi.

The tragedy was one of the worst industrial accidents in the country’s history. Investigators say the high death-toll is most likely because emergency exit doors in the five-storey building were locked and fire extinguishers were either non-existent or not working at the time of the blaze.

The father and son owners of Ali Enterprises, which produced clothing for international retailers, are currently in a provincial prison awaiting formal charges, which could include murder.

Shortly after the fire, government and business leaders called the tragedy a “wake-up call” and promised better industry oversight and improved safety for workers. That’s when Al Jazeera began investigating whether conditions were actually getting better.

Over a period of several weeks, we secretly visited six garment factories, often gaining access with the help of employees worried for their safety every time they went to work.
What we discovered was unsettling: none of the six factories had fire safety plans and very few had operational fire safety tools like extinguishers or water sprinklers.

The conditions at Shadman Electronic Industries, which makes clothes for international companies in addition to electronics, were the most distressing.
Mobile phone video – secretly shot by an employee – showed emergency exit doors filled in with cement bricks, fire extinguishers missing throughout and exposed electrical wiring close to workspaces.
We took our findings to Kashif Khan, the owner and operator of Shadman Electronic Industries. read more.

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20121102

* Karachi factory fire: Court orders officer to submit charge sheet in 14 days:

A local court of Karachi ordered the investigation officer on Friday to submit final charge sheet pertaining to the Karachi factory fire case, DawnNews reported.

Judicial Magistrate of Karachi’s western district showed displeasure over non submission of the charge sheet by the investigation officer. The magistrate granted 14-day deadline to the officer to submit the final charge sheet.

The owners of the garment factory Ali Enterprises, where a fire killed at least 258 people, pleaded that they were facing financial problems because their accounts were frozen by the authorities.
Police in Karachi had registered a murder case against the owners of the factory on Sept 13. read more.

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20121103

* Safety lax in Pakistan’s textile industry:

Exclusive Al Jazeera investigation into textile factories exposes poor safety conditions within industry.

Recent fatalities of more than 300 people at Pakistan garment factories, many which are producers for well-known international brands, has cast a spotlight on lax labour laws in the country’s garment sector.

A factory fire which killed 289 people on September 12 was followed by another fatal fire at an illegal shoe factory in Lahore.
In a weeks long investigation, Al Jazeera secretly visited six other garment factories represented by various associations and found that none of them had adequate safety measures in place.

Al Jazeera found that at one factory the conditions were so dire that emergency exit doors were blocked with cement bricks and that fire extinguishers were either missing or not being used.
Workspaces in the factory, owned by Shadman Electronic Industries, were also surrounded by exposed electrical wiring.

But, in an exclusive interview, the owner, Kashif Khan, told Al Jazeera that he was aware of the lack of safety at his factory but that he was now committed to improving its safety standards. read more & see VIDEO.

* The Baldia Town factory fire was not pre-meditated murder! :


Their basic visitation rights, being the owners, were stripped away when their factory was sealed, not allowing them to visit their own factory. PHOTO: REUTERS

Is it a crime that someone in Pakistan generates Rs2 billion in annual revenues? If this said person pays taxes worth Rs20 million per year, why is he implicated under section 302, which is premeditated murder, if his factory faces an accident?

Is it fair that a person providing direct employment to 1,200 workers, translating into 1,200 families, whose factory suffers from an unanticipated fire, is sent to jail along with his gatekeeper, accountant and senior staff? Who benefits from the fact that the owners are in jail today? And what happens to the 900 workers who are depending on finances from the owner to support their families?

The owners, who are well educated engineers and doctors, have lost their own source of livelihood with this disastrous fire, along with assets worth millions that may take them the rest of their lives to rebuild and regenerate. Yet, they have been labelled criminals under a section of law that claims the accident was evidence for premeditated murder? read more.

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20121104

* Defence wants owners to be freed as police ask for 4th extension to complete probe:

 The police looking into the Baldia factory fire have asked for a fourth extension, eliciting a frustrated response from the defense.

“Why did the police arrest my clients if they did not have sufficient evidence against them?” asked Amir Raza Naqvi, who is representing the owners of Ali Enterprises. “Instead of making a case before the arrests, police are now scrambling to build one.”

On September 11, Karachi’s worst industrial fire struck, killing at least 289 workers. The owners of Ali Enterprises Arshad and Shahid Bhaila were arrested. By October 4, the police had drawn up a list of interim charge sheet. But they repeatedly asked for more time to investigate before presenting to the judge a final charge sheet.
Naqvi pointed out that the police could take as much time as they need to investigate but his clients should not be kept behind bars during that time. “I fail to understand why they have been arrested – there is no evidence against my clients and they should be released right now.”

Pointing at the investigation officer, Naqvi said, “They have nothing which can justify the arrest.” If this is the police’s way of carrying out an investigation, said the counsel, then residents of the area and others should also be behind bars.
“My clients are from an educated family and are tax payers of this country – they should be transferred to a jail with better facilities.” Naqvi also requested the court to unfreeze his clients’ accounts and submitted requests to unseal a warehouse located near the factory to access factory records.  read more.

* Baldia fire: DNA reports of 30 missing workers still awaited:

Families of more than two dozen victims of the Baldia Town factory fire, whose bodies charred beyond recognition, are still waiting for the DNA reports of their loved ones from a laboratory in Islamabad, where samples had been sent some 40 days ago.

Police investigators are also feeling helpless as they see no sign of early completion of the process.
Officials said that heirs of more than 40 workers missing since the Baldia Town factory fire incident had submitted blood samples after a few days of the incident and the police sent the samples to a laboratory for matching these with the DNA samples obtained from the charred bodies found from the haunted industrial unit.

“Since then we have received results of only 14 samples from the forensic laboratory in Islamabad,” said Investigation Officer Sub-Inspector Jehanzaib of the Site-B police station. “Some 30 bodies are still lying at the Edhi morgue in Sohrab Goth. We have sent a number of reminders to the laboratory but we are not aware of the exact reasons behind the delay.” read more.

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20121106

* Baldia factory fire: Govt given seven days to complete DNA testing:

Sindh High Court has directed the provincial government to complete within a week the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) matching process to identify remaining victims of the county’s worst industrial disaster.

The court has also directed the Sindh Labor Department to conduct a complete survey within one month of all the industrial establishments running in Karachi to identify how many of them have proper safety arrangements made for the workers safety.

In addition, the court issued notices of contempt to the owners of the ill-fated Ali Enterprises garments factory – Abdul Aziz Bhailla, Arshad Bhailla and Shahid Bhailla – for not providing details of their moveable and immoveable assets to the court despite orders. read more.

* Owners seek access to bank account, possession of factory:

The owners of Ali Enterprises, a Baldia Town garments factory where a Category 3 fire had killed at least 259 people on September 11, have prayed to court to allow them access to their bank account and possession of the factory and its warehouse.

Through their plea on Monday, the owners desired to deploy their own security at the factory and said that it would be fair to allow them possession of the factory to that extent.
Judicial Magistrate (West-II) Sohail Ahmed Mashori noted that the police department had not filed any comments on the plea, and fixed November 12 to decide the matter.
The owners, Shahid Bhaila, Arshad Bhaila and Abdul Aziz Bhaila, and factory manager Mansoor Idress, along with some other employees of the factory, are being tried in the factory fire case. One of the accused, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, is on bail, while the others are in judicial custody. read more.

* SHC seeks report on safety rules in industrial units:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the Ministry of Labour and Industries and other departments concerned on Monday to conduct a survey of all industrial units and labour establishments in Karachi and submit a report on the implementation of fire and safety provisions.

The court was hearing identical petitions seeking a judicial inquiry into the Baldia Town factory fire that killed 259 people on September 11.

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and others filed the petitions requesting the court to constitute a judicial commission which may fix responsibility on persons responsible of the incident and suggest monetary compensation for the legal heirs of the victims.

They also sought an order restraining the inquiry commission constituted by the provincial government as well as against the owners of the factory, Ali Enterprises, from the disposal of the factory or creating any third party interest till the final adjudication of the petitions. read more.

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20121107

* Monument to Baldia factory fire victims to be built in SITE:

The Workers Rights Movement (WRM) has decided to build a monument to more than 250 workers who died in a fire at a Baldia Town garments factory on September 11.

The WRM has decided to make paintings and statutes of the victims at the monument to be built in the SITE area. Artists associated with fine art departments of universities and colleges will be requested to make these paintings and statutes.
These decisions were taken during a WRM meeting at the PMA House on Tuesday.

To achieve these targets, the meeting decided to launch a fund-raising campaign in which every factory worker will be requested to contribute their one-day salary. A ‘Jholi Phelao’ campaign will be part of the effort.
The WRM was formed after the fire incident in Ali Enterprises in which 259 labourers had lost their lives and several others suffered serious injuries, prompting calls for better safety measures in all industrial units. read more.

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20121109

* Information cells set up to handle complaints from families of victims:

This file photo shows the extent of damage that was caused to the factory by the fire. It’s been over two months yet there is still no official record of how many people were present when the fire broke out.
Filling a vacuum left by the government and law enforcement agencies, labour rights organisations have now set up information points for victims of the Baldia factory fire incident.Despite the passage of almost two months, no official record exists of the number of people who worked at the factory and how many of them were present when the fire broke out. The information cells would perhaps help nearly 70 families, who are awaiting the dreaded confirmation that their loved ones died in the fire.“We believe that dozens of workers are still missing because their bodies have not been recovered, or [probably] melted due to the high temperature,” said Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at a press conference on Thursday.A total of 259 people lost their lives in the country’s worst industrial disaster on September 11. Investigating officer Jahanzaib Khan had earlier told The Express Tribune that the actual death toll might be higher, as officials had not been allowed to visit the factory’s administration block, which survived the fire. Police have received over 100 complaints about people gone missing in the factory fire. Ali said that 61 workers were still missing, while Edhi morgue was awaiting DNA test results for 27 unidentified bodies. read more.

* Inspection of garments, chemical industries demanded:

Representative organisations of trade unions and labour rights organisations on Thursday urged the government to immediately start the health and safety inspections of all chemical and garments factories in Pakistan through provincial labour departments.

Addressing a joint press conference, labour leaders including, Karamat Ali (Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research), Noor Muhammad (Port Workers Federation), Muhammad Jafar Khan (Muttahida Labour Federation) and Nasir Mansoor (National Trade Union Federation) pointed out that the government through Commerce Ministry has provided millions of rupees funds to many garments exporting factories for seeking SA-8000 certification through international organisations.

This certification is being considered a substitute of the inspection and audit by labour departments. The official inspection is actually banned in Sindh and Punjab on orders of chief ministers for many years, they said.

They said that the Italian company RINA, which had issued Social Audit certificate to Ali Enterprises as well as other certification companies, has also issued similar SA-8000 certificates to over 100 exporting companies in Pakistan.

They demanded that the government start audit and inspection of all these companies first to ascertain health and safety facilities available in these industries. Under the Factories Act 1934, labour departments need to conduct inspection of all the industries to ensure availability of all conducive facilities in these establishments.
read more.

* Workers want industries inspection resumed:

Workers’ representatives have demanded that health and safety-related inspections of industries, which have been abandoned for the past many years, be resumed immediately to prevent Baldia-like industrial tragedies in future.

Speaking at a press conference at the press club on Thursday, the representatives of various labour and civil society organisations demanded that the labour department conduct inspections of garment-exporting companies, which had sought social audit certifications from the international inspections companies.

Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) said the commerce ministry had provided millions of rupees to many garment-exporting factories for seeking SA-8000 certification through international organisations. “This certification is being considered as a substitute for the inspection and audit by the labour department,” he said.

He said that some international organisations working for the rights of workers such as Clean Clothes Campaign were also forcing international buyers to fulfil their responsibility and compensate the workers as some of international buyers did in countries like Bangladesh and Turkey. The Clean Clothes Campaign with labour rights organisations of Pakistan had identified a major buyer that was purchasing garments from Ali Enterprises and that buyer was being persuaded to fulfil its responsibility. While actual responsibility was on the owners of the Ali Enterprises, the international buyers also had some obligations to fulfil, he added. read more.

* Labour bodies demand audits, inspections of factories:

Representative organisations of trade unions and labour rigahts organisations on Thursday urged the government to immediately start the health and safety inspections of all chemical and garments factories in Pakistan through the provincial labour departments.

They stressed that the exercise should focus on garments-exporting factories which exported their goods and had sought social audit certifications from international inspection companies.

Addressing a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday, the labour leaders, including Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Noor Mohammad of the Port Workers Federation, Mohammad Jafar Khan of the Muttahida Labour Federation, and Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation, pointed out that the government of Pakistan through the commerce ministry had provided millions of rupees’ funds to many garments-exporting factories for seeking SA-8000 certification through international organisations. read more.


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20121110

* More than 100 families yet to receive compensation:

The families of around 185 victims of a Baldia garments factory fire have received monetary compensation, and the rest numbering more than 100 are still waiting to be paid, according to a labour leader.

The government is yet to release a list of families which have been paid compensation for the loss of their loved ones in the September 11 blaze. Most victims were the sole breadwinner for their families.
Two months have passed but the exact number of labourers who lost their lives in the Category III blaze is yet to be determined. The government has put the death toll as 259, whereas some labour organisations claim the figure is up to 300.

The general secretary of the Garments Hosiery Labour Association, Nawab Ali, said on Friday that around 185 affected families had been compensated so far. However, he said efforts were being made to get a list to ascertain the exact number of families that had received compensation.
Ali said there were several families which took away the bodies of their beloved ones from the factory, Ali Enterprises, without fulfilling legal requirements, and there were some families which buried the deceased but did not have the burial record issued by the KMC. read more.

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20121114

* Factory fire case: Court orders registration of factories across Sindh:

This photo, taken on September 11, shows a man looking into the stitching room on the third floor of the factory. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/FILE

The Sindh government has been ordered to inspect all factories across the province to see if safety of workers is ensured or not and get all unregistered industrial units registered within 20 days.

The Sindh High Court was on Tuesday hearing a petition seeking judicial inquiry into the country’s worst industrial disaster, in which more than 250 workers were burnt alive at a garment factory In Baldia Town on September 11.

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan among others non-governmental organisations had taken to court the factory owners – Abdul Aziz Bhailla and his two sons Arshad and Shahid – on charges of murder and criminal negligence.

The court was requested to constitute a judicial commission to fix the responsibility of the factory fire and suggest monetary compensations for the victims’ heirs. In another miscellaneous application, the petitioners appealed to the court to ensure compliance of its earlier order regarding safety of factory workers under labour laws. On November 6, the high court had directed the labour, industries and other departments to survey all industrial units in Karachi and submit their report on fire and safety measures in place at the factories. read more.

* SHC seeks reports on DNA tests, compensation money:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed authorities to furnish progress reports on DNA tests of unidentifiable Baldia factory fire victims and disbursement of compensation cheques among families of the deceased, Express News reported on Tuesday.

The country’s worst fire incident had claimed the lives of over 250 people in September. Many workers died of suffocation, others still were burnt alive at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia town, which made ready-to-wear clothing for Western export.

The SHC had earlier given the provincial government a week to complete the DNA matching process to identify the remaining victims so that their bodies can be handed over to their families.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the court was informed that the ill-fated factory was not registered.
The court ordered registration of all the unregistered factories across the province and also sought a detailed report on them.
The hearing was adjourned till December 3. to read.

* Ali Enterprises not registered, SHC told:

Ali Enterprises, the ill-fated garments factory in Baldia Town where a fire killed at least 259 people on September 11, was not registered with the Directorate of Labour as its owners did not submit a notice of occupation under the labour laws, the Sindh High Court (SHC) was informed on Tuesday.

The court was hearing identical petitions seeking a judicial inquiry into the fire incident.
The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and others have filed petitions for the constitution of a judicial commission to fix responsibility on persons responsible for the incident and suggest monetary compensation for the legal heirs of the victims.

They also sought an order restraining the inquiry commission constituted by the provincial government as well as the owners of the factory from the disposal of the factory or creating any third party interest till final adjudication of the petitions.
More than 300 workers were in the industrial unit when the fire broke out and raged for 15 hours, trapping employees in the building and killing most of them.

The labour secretary said in his comments before the court that the factory was not registered under Section 9 of the Factory Act and Section 3 of Factory Rules.
read more.

* IO gets one more day to submit final charge sheet:

A judge on Tuesday granted the investigation officer (IO) one more day to submit the final charge sheet in the Baldia garments factory fire case.

A week back IO Jahanzeb had been told to present the final charge sheet against the accused, including the three owners of Ali Enterprises, the ill-fated factory where a Category III blaze claimed the lives of at least 259 labourers on September 11.
When the IO appeared before Magistrate (West-II) Sohail Ahmed Mashori on Tuesday, he sought a few more hours to finalise the charge sheet. However, the court granted him 24 hours and adjourned the hearing.

Two owners of the factory, Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila, along with manager Mansoor Idress and other accused in the case, were brought from the prison for the framing of the charges. Another owner, Aziz Bhaila, who has been on bail on health grounds, was also present in the courtroom.

The investigation officer had submitted an interim charge sheet at a previous hearing. However, the judge had expressed his dissatisfaction with the case facts mentioned in the interim charge sheet, saying that it lacked information on the role of the factory owners and civic agencies, including civil defence, fire brigade and the Karachi Building Control Authority. read more.

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20121115

* Factory fire tribunal: ‘Negligence’ lands officials in hot water:

Non-bailable arrest warrants have been issued against four government officials, who will now be treated as suspects in the Baldia factory fire, for negligence on their part.

A district and sessions court passed the orders on Wednesday to include labour director, Zahid Qurban Shaikh, SITE managing director, Rashid Ahmed Solangi, Civil Defence additional controller, Ghulam Akbar, and Karachi Region-II electric inspector, Amjad Ali, in the inquiry.
The second judicial magistrate West, Sohail Ahmed Mashori, also issued warrants against them as their negligence played a vital part in the worst industrial disaster in the country that claimed the lives of over 250 factory workers.

The case investigating officer, Jahanzaib Khan, had earlier submitted the final charge-sheet implicating only the factory owners. No intentional negligence or failure was established on part of the government departments, SITE Limited, labour department, electric inspector, fire department, civil defence and their officials. The other “accused” departments mentioned in the FIR were excluded as “institutions could not be charged since they were not persons and departmental action could be taken against them.”

In his order, the judge stated that police had sought time on the grounds that they had to fix responsibility of the institutions and in that sense, the investigating officer’s contention was not lawful. read more.

* Court orders restoration of owners’ frozen accounts:

A Karachi court, hearing the case pertaining to the Baldia Town factory fire, that killed 250 workers, ordered restoration of the factory owners’ accounts that had been frozen earlier, Express News reported on Wednesday.

The court also rejected police reports that portrayed government bodies as innocent.
The country’s worst fire incident had claimed the lives of over 250 people in September. Many workers died of suffocation, others still were burnt alive at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia town, which made ready-to-wear clothing for Western export.

Earlier, the Sindh High Court (SHC) had directed authorities to furnish progress reports on DNA tests of unidentifiable factory fire victims and the disbursement of compensation cheques among families of the deceased.
The Sindh government was also ordered to inspect all factories across the province to see if safety of workers is ensured or not and get all unregistered industrial units registered within 20 days. to read.

* Non-bailable warrants issued against four officials:

A judge on Wednesday issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of four officials of the labour department and civic agencies for showing negligence and not playing a responsible role in dealing with the Baldia garments factory fire incident.

Judicial Magistrate (West-II) Sohail Ahmed Mashori observed that the final charge sheet submitted by the investigation officer had showed certain officials of the labour department and other civic agencies had played a negative role.
The judge then ordered police to make arrests and produce the accused in the court on November 27.

The officials against whom the non-bailable warrants have been issued are Labour Director Zahid Qurban Sheikh, Managing Director SITE Rasheed Ahmed Solangi, Additional Controller Civil Defence Ghulam Akbar and Chief Electrical Inspector Amjad Ali.

The final charge sheet said factory owners Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila, sons of another accused Abul Aziz Bhaila, remained unmoved despite the eruption of the fire in Ali Enterprises, the ill-fated factory where at least 259 labourers were killed on September 11. It said the two had taken no steps for the security and safety of the workers. read more.

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20121117

* Factory fire victims’ heirs to get compensation:

The Sindh government would provide financial assistance to rehabilitate each family of the Baldia factory fire victims through Workers Welfare Fund.Labour Department Provincial Secretary Arif Elahi made the statement while addressing a workshop held for the training of Baldia Town factory victims’ families here on Friday.

The Training programme was jointly arranged by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Pakistan Readymade Garments Technical Training Institute.
The Provincial Secretary said that investigation into tragic incident had been completed and would b submitted to the Chief Minister soon. He said tribunal, led by retired judge Zahid Qurban Alvi, had completed its report, while government will implement the findings, in which whoever was found responsible for the incident would be punished.

He said that the rehabilitation of the victims’ families was the government’s top priority and concrete steps would be taken to avoid such tragedies in future.
The families of the victims would also be provided medical facility through SESSI and pension would be extended through EOBI, Labour Secretary added.
He informed that the PRGMEA will arrange the registration of the workers of their members units so that Labour Department could provide them medical and pension facilities besides allotting them flats in labour colonies.

He assured that a committee, comprising of ILO, PRGMEA, PRGTTI and Labour Department, will oversee the rehabilitation as well as job placement of the victims’ families.
Meanwhile, Director ILO, Francesco D Ovidio while addressing the gathering said that ILO was concerned over the most tragic incident and was keen to rehabilitate the victims’ families.
He said The ILO Office Islamabad was working closely with the Labour Department of Sindh for the rehabilitation and employment of victims and their families.
He said training was aimed to train the 250 victims’ families with current skills and education through a Rapid Needs Analysis.

On this occasion, the Chairman PRGMEA Sajid Saleem Minhas emphasized to gear up efforts to rehabilitate the families of factory fire’s victims adding that PRGMEA members had already expressed their willingness to provide jobs to the victims’ families after completion of their training. to read.

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20121118

* ‘Baldia bereaved to be given Rs500,000 per family’:

The victims of the Baldia Town factory inferno will be given financial assistance of Rs500,000 per family from the Workers’ Welfare Fund (WWF) by the Sindh labour department, announced Secretary Labour Arif Elahi on Friday.

Speaking as the chief guest at a launching ceremony of training course for families of Baldia Town victims, he said investigation of the tragic incident was complete and to be submitted to the high-ups soon.

Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) has commenced the training course in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO). Pakistan Readymade Garments Technical Training Institute (PRGTTI) is tasked to conduct the course.
He further said the government’s strategy was to punish those who were responsible for the incident, rehabilitate the affected families, and devise a plan to prevent such mishaps in future.

The Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI) will provide affected families with medical facility and the Employees Old-age Benefits Institution (EOBI) will give pensions to bereaved families.
The secretary asked the PRGMEA Chairman Sajid Saleem Minhas to arrange the registration of the workers of their member units so that labour department could provide them with medical facilities besides allotting them flats in labour colonies.
read more.

* Workers march in protest:

The members of the Workers Rights Movement (WRM) marched from Regal Chowk to the Karachi Press Club on Friday to condemn the indifference of the government and private sector towards labour rights.

The organisation was formed by labour unions after a fire at Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town that claimed 259 lives on September 11. Nasir Mansoor, a leader of the National Trade Union Federation, complained that industrialists continue to hold their employees in low esteem.
The government does not inspect the factories, which can partly explain the harsh working environment faced by labourers, he added. to read.

* Labour activists demand inspection of factories:

Labour activists on Friday vowed to continue their struggle for the rights of the workers until the government fulfills the registration of factories and restore the procedure of labour inspection in the industries across the country as per the law.

At a protest rally taken out in solidarity with the workers killed in the Baldia factory fire, the activists under the umbrella Workers Rights Movement (WRM), also decided not to sit quiet until the contract system from the industrial sector is eliminated, which they termed as ‘a curse for the laborers’.

The rally began which began at Regal Chowk ended at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) was lead by Usman Baloch, Nasir Mansoor, Jafar Khan, Gul Rahman and others. A large numbers of laborers of different industrial zones, students, political workers, women and human rights associations participated in the protest.

The speakers urged the government to accept the due demands of the familes of Baldia factory fire which they have been making since the day the tragedy struck.
The speakers while addressing the participants of the rally said that sacrifices of the workers who were burnt alive would pave way for the revolution.

They said the greed of capitalists to squeeze large profits and non-implementation of labour laws on industrial sector created this deadly incident of Ali Enterprises in which around 300 labourers were burnt alive.
They said hundreds of workers got serious injuries and thousands of them have been rendered jobless.

They said the state and the government’s departments associated with labour issues have become puppets in the hands of mill owners and the phenomenon has turned the workplaces of labourers into their deathtraps.
The labourers’ representatives said that workers of factories at large are deprived of appointment letters. They said these workers in absence of appointment letters have no access to the rights which they duly deserve under the constitution. read more.

* Three officials granted pre-arrest bail:

A fire truck is being used to remove bodies from the Ali Enterpises factory which caught fire on September 11. PHOTO: FILE

As the scope of investigation of the country’s worst industrial disaster widens to include government quarters, three senior officers facing arrest have obtained protective bail before the Sindh High Court could issue orders.

Initially, police had only booked the factory owners – Abdul Aziz Bhailla and his two sons, Arshad and Shahid – for the deadly blaze at Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia Town that claimed the lives of over 250 workers on September 11. The case was registered under murder and negligence charges.

On November 14, the district and sessions court hearing the case had found four government officials – Labour director Zahid Qurban Shaikh, SITE managing director Rashid Ahmed Solangi, Civil Defence additional controller Ghulam Akbar and Karachi Region-II electric inspector Amjad Ali Mahesar – guilty of criminal negligence in the case. Subsequently, non-bailable arrest warrants were issued for their arrest.

To avoid arrest, Zahid Qurban Shaikh, Rashid Ahmed Solangi and Amjad Ali Mahser went to the Sindh High Court for the grant of protective bail before arrest.
On Saturday, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi granted protective bail before arrest to Zahid Qurban Shaikh against a surety of Rs100,000 and directed him to surrender before the trial court within 10 days to join the investigation. read more.

* SITE MD granted pre-arrest bail in factory fire case:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday granted protective pre-arrest bail to the MD SITE and an electric inspector in the Baldia garments factory fire case.

MD SITE Rasheed Solangi and electric inspector Amjad have been included among other accused in the fresh charge sheet submitted by the investigation officer before the trial court.

The applicant’s counsel, Amir Mansoob Qureshi and Junaid Alam Rizvi, said the applicants wanted to surrender to the trial court and expressed apprehension of their arrest during appearance before the court.
A single bench, headed by Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, after the preliminary hearing, granted protective bail to the applicants against a surety of Rs100,000 with the direction to appear before the trial court. More than 300 workers were present in the factory, Ali Enterprises, when a fire broke out and engulfed the entire building, resulting in the death of over 250 labourers.

Unlawful detention
The SHC issued notices to the federal and provincial governments to file comments on a petition against the alleged unlawful detention of a man by the Rangers.
A petitioner, Sher Rukh Syed, submitted that his son Shahid Hussain went to offer Isha prayers at a nearby mosque in the Peerabad area in September but did not return. He said that he later came to know that his son was arrested by the Rangers and that he would be released after the interrogation, but despite the lapse of three weeks he was not released and his whereabouts were still unknown. read more.

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20121120

* Many families of Baldia victims yet to be compensated:

Although two months have passed since the devastating fire at a factory in the Baldia Town area claimed the lives of nearly 300 people, only 165 families of the victims were compensated by the authorities for their tragic loss, stated a report of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) which was shared exclusively with The News. It added that a number of these heirs were unaware of the procedure to follow to get the compensation.

It said that the relevant authorities could not even produce a DNA report for the 61 families whose loved ones’ bodies were yet to be identified. The trade union revealed that there were only 27 bodies in the mortuary, whereas 61 families had yet to get the corpses of their relatives. Identifying and locating the bodies was not only important to the families for burial purposes, but also to get the compensation promised by the federal and provincial governments.

This report was complied by Zohra Akbar Khan, the education research secretary of NTUF, in collaboration with some other trade union activists of the federation. The prime minister announced Rs400,000 as compensation for the families, while the Sindh chief minister declared that around Rs300,000 would be paid to the legal heirs of those who perished. In addition, prosperous businessman Malik Riaz also announced Rs200,000 for the families.

Meanwhile, a committee had also been formed to oversee the compensation; however, not a single trade union or federation activist was included and neither were the people affected by the fire.

The News also attempted to get a list of the compensated families, but it was yet to be made public. Many families, who were yet to receive the bodies of their relatives, had also not been compensated. read more.

* Factory gates were closed on the day of fire, witnesses tell court:

Two witnesses to the Baldia Town factory fire of last week told court on Tuesday that the entry and exist gates of the ill-fated factory were closed on the day the incident occurred.

The witnesses, both employees of the garment factory, Ali Enterprises, recorded their statements before Judicial Magistrate (West-II) Sohail Ahmed Mashori under Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code.
The unprecedented industrial tragedy, which saw 260 labourers lost to the inferno on September 11, prompted calls for an overhaul of poor safety standards. A case was registered against the owners by the SITE-B police.

A machine operator of the 3,000-square-yard factory, Umer, and accountant Khurram Iqbal said in their statements that the owners were present at the factory when the Category 3 broke out. read more.

* Garment factory blaze : SHC issues notice to prosecutor general:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday issued a notice to the Prosecutor General Sindh in a petition seeking bail of owners of a garment factory of Karachi facing murder charges for death of more than 250 people in the fire at the factory.

The petitioners, Arshad Abdul Aziz and Shahid Abdul Aziz, submitted that there was clear contradiction in the story of the prosecution and evidence on the record.

They submitted that district police had failed to collect and preserve the relevant evidence, which was their professional duty to collect initial information for the investigation and instead they waited for the day to register FIR and incorporated the facts in a distorted manner. It was submitted that version recorded in the FIR was motivated. Subsequently every effort was made only to strengthen the version of FIR instead bringing truth to the record. It was submitted that truth was otherwise what was mentioned in the FIR and police tried to withhold each evidence favouring the factory owners. read more.

* Owners told to file asset details by Nov 26:

The owners of the fateful Ali Enterprises garment factory have been given until November 26 to submit complete details of their property in court.

The Sindh High Court division bench headed by Justice Maqbool Baqir issued this directive on Monday on an application filed on behalf of different non-governmental organisations.

The assets of the factory owners – Abdul Aziz Bhailla and his two sons Arshad and Shahid – were frozen following the tragic industrial blaze that claimed the lives of over 250 workers on September 11. Recently, the owners managed to obtain an order from a court through which they were allowed to use up to 20% of their assets.

However, they have still not filed the information of their assets despite high court orders issued on September 25. The petitioners’ lawyer, Faisal Siddiqui, appealed to the court to call the details of properties owned by the Bhaila family. read more.

* SHC tells owners to submit assets’ details in four days:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday directed the owners of Ali Enterprises, a garments factory in Baldia Town where a fire had killed over 250 people in September, to submit details of their properties and assets within four days.

The court was hearing identical petitions seeking a judicial inquiry into the fire incident of September 11.The petitioners, including the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education, pleaded with the SHC to constitute a judicial commission to fix responsibility on persons responsible for the incident and suggest monetary compensation the families of the victims.

They also sought the issuance of an order restraining the inquiry commission constituted by the provincial government and the owners from disposing of the factory or creating any third party interest till final adjudication of the petitions.

Filing a miscellaneous application, the petitioners’ counsel, Faisal Siddiqui, submitted that the factory owners had obtained a trial court’s order for unfreezing 20 percent of its assets and funds. read more.

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20121123

* Prgmea to start skill training programme:

Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, ILO and Sindh Labour Department have jointly launched a skill training programme with a view to empower factory fire affected families.

Addressing the launching ceremony, PRGMEA Chairman Sajid Saleem Minhas and Vice Chairman PRGTTI Sohail A Sheikh said that it is first step to help the families gather courage to pull their lives back and look forward to the future challenges.
They said body will arrange the registration of the workers of their members units so that Labour Department could provide them medical and pension facilities besides allotting them flats in labor colonies. read more.

* Judge refuses to hear Baldia factory owners’ bail plea:

A Sindh High Court (SHC) judge refused to hear the bail plea of the owners of the Baldia garment factory on Thursday.

Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, two of the three owners of the Ali Enterprises factory that caught fire in September and killed over 250 workers, had gone to court seeking bail. Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi declined to even hear their application for a post-arrest bail.

The police had booked them under charges of murder, mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage and attempt to murder.

In the bail application, their lawyer, Amir Raza Naqvi, had argued that the investigation was faulty and full of errors. Thus, the police implicated the factory owners to victimise them, he said. “The police have forced the witnesses to record their statements against the factory owners, who are already aggrieved as they lost their precious asset – their factory,” he said. read more.

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20121127

* Factory fire case Another accused granted bail:

A sessions court on Monday granted interim bail to an electrical inspector in the Baldia Town garment factory fire case.

Amjad Ali through his lawyer moved a pre-arrest bail application and additional district and sessions judge (west) Abdullah Channa granted him interim pre-arrest bail against the surety bond of Rs500,000 till Dec 1.

The police cited negligence of the SITE, labour, civil defence and other departments concerned as one of the reasons of the fire in an interim report, but did not name officials in the final charge-sheet.

However, a magistrate declared managing director of SITE Abdul Rasheed Solangi, director of the labour department Zahid Gulzar Sheikh, additional controller of civil defence Ghulam Akbar and electrical inspector Amjad Ali accused on Nov 14 for their alleged negligence in the case and issued their warrants for Nov 27. to read.

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20121128

* Officer given two days to justify guards’ arrest:

 A district and sessions court hearing the Baldia factory fire case has directed the investigating officer to bring witnesses and provide proof within two days justifying the arrest of two security guards of the factory.

The police had arrested two guards, Ali Muhammad and Fazal Mehmood, on their alleged involvement in the factory fire which claimed over 250 lives in September this year.
The guards’ lawyer, Muhammad Tamim Khan, urged the court to release the suspects on bail as the police have not produced any evidence against them since their arrest and kept them behind bars for no reason.

Putting off the hearing until November 29, the fifth additional district and sessions judge (West), Abdullah Channah, ordered the prosecutor and investigating officer, Jahanzaib Khan, to provide evidence against the suspects within two days.
read more.

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20121204

* Short circuit, all of Karachi to blame for tragedy, says tribunal:

An electrical short-circuit may have been the initial cause of the Baldia garments factory that claimed the lives of more than 250 people but the “entire system” is responsible for the cause of deaths.

This is the crux of the long-awaited report of the Baldia factory fire tribunal which has been submitted to chief minister and home department.

From the setting up of the factory and its drawing plan, from meeting safety standards and the architects who did not make emergency exits, everything counts in the disaster, the report says while criticising the owners for fitting in maximum number of machines into minimum space.  “Not only the owners flouted the rules, officials of civil defence, labour departments were also negligent,” it stated.

The tribunal, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Kurban Alavi and Khalilur Rehman Shaikh, also refers to several incidents of fire that broke out earlier at the factory, saying all fires were caused by power short-circuits.

Ali Enterprises did not store highly flammable chemicals and the condition of the generators or boilers did not suggest the fire started from there. The tribunal found no evidence against the allegations that factory doors had been locked, wrote Justice Alavi. read more.

* Court questions ability of civic agencies to deal with emergencies:

In a suo motu hearing on Monday, the Sindh High Court (SHC) has questioned the ability of civic agencies in responding timely to emergencies.

Almost three months after the Baldia factory fire that left over 250 people dead, the death of Ovais Baig after he fell off the State Life building to avoid the fire – has intensified the debate whether or not our civic agencies can deal with mishaps.

The judges formally started hearing the suo motu case as to why the civic agencies failed to save the ill-fated young man even though he was dangling at the window for 15 minutes. The case has been tagged along two identical petitions seeking judicial inquiry of the Baldia factory tragedy. read more.

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20121205

* Tribunal recommends closing down police’s forensic department:

When the Sindh police’s forensic department cannot carry out modern scientific tests, it should be closed down, recommended the tribunal that investigated the Baldia factory fire in its inquiry report.

On September 11, the tragic incident at Ali Enterprises claimed the lives of more than 250 people. Later, the provincial government constituted a two-member tribunal to investigate the cause of fire.

The inquest was completed within 12 days with more than 40 people, including government officers, fire fighters, factory workers and doctors, recording their statements.

In their recommendations, Justices (retd) Zahid Kurban Alavi and Khalilur Rehman Shaikh have advised the Sindh government to shut the police forensic department, which has failed to serve its purpose to resolve crimes through scientific methods. From each floor of the ill-fated garments factory, forensic officials could only collect pieces of burnt wires and cloth that were handed over to police for further investigation, the former judges wondered.

“It is a sad reflection on the competency and efficiency of this [forensic] department,” the report says. In its findings, the panel has termed an electrical short-circuit as the most plausible cause behind the blaze. read more.

* Bail pleas to be decided on 7th in factory fire case:

The appellate court in the Baldia Town factory fire case will hear bail pleas of two accused, Fazal Ahmed and Ali Muhamad, on December 7.

The two watchmen of Ali Enterprises, the ill-fated garments factory where the Category 3 fire killed 259 labourers on September 11, moved the bail applications, protesting that they were under detention while they had no involvement in the fire incident.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Abdullah Channa announced on Tuesday he would conclude bail matters on December 7. to read.

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20121206

* Families try to prove that loved ones were lost in fire:

Syed Nazeef Shah believes his son is dead – for all he knows is that young Obaidullah was working at Ali Enterprises on September 11, 2012 when a raging fire killed more than 250 people at the factory.

But what he does not have is closure as his son’s body was never found and the DNA test reports came back without any answer. Without proof, he cannot get a death certificate issued as well. Obaidullah reportedly joined the factory two weeks before the fire broke out but when asked for documents that could verify his employment, his father hands over irrelevant papers such as a matriculation certificate instead of a company card.

The only verification Shah can offer is through his neighbours and other residents, such as the shopkeepers and the bus conductors, who he says can vouch that Obaidullah worked at the factory.

“I have visited leaders of three political parties as well as the deputy commissioner for compensation. All of them turned me back saying that I should bring the body first,” said Shah who lives in one of the impoverished colonies of Baldia Town. “We deserve compensation. But what am I suppose to do now?”

Families still waiting
Shah’s son is among the 61 people who, as claimed by their families, were working in the factory and are still missing, their remains apparently disintegrated and washed away from the premises. read more.

* KIK & The Karachi Garment factory Fire disaster :

Thursday 6 Dec. 2012 – 21.45h (loc.time) Panorama: A update about KIK and the Karachi fire. German Television: ARD – DasErste. (NDR-Panorama production von Christoph Lütgert)  (German spoken.)

LIVESTREAM

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20121207

* Workplace safety: Labour dept likely to launch action plan next month:

An announcement about various exit points in a local hotel in case of a fire or any an emergency set the tone for the main theme of a workshop that was being held at the hotel on the topic of “promoting workplace safety and health in Sindh” on Thursday.

Speaking at the workshop that included three parallel technical consultation sessions on the themes of “occupational safety and health”, “labour inspection” and “work injury insurance schemes”, Sindh labour department secretary Arif Elahi said: “Instead of blaming employers, inspectors, emergency services, etc, we thought of an action plan of first training ourselves to prevent tragedies such as the Baldia Town factory fire.”

He added: “The business people must understand that no one is out to harass them in the name of ‘inspection’. And we should also know what is keeping employers from taking certain necessary measures. Also the employees should not think that no one cares about them. The main objective is to create awareness of the problems of all the three stakeholders and understand them. So please let us just adopt an action plan as the lives of workers are also precious.” read more.

* Tod in der Fabrik: der Preis für billige Kleidung (& KIK):

* Death in the factory: the price of cheap clothing (& KIK):

There is not much that remains Rehana shows us a family photo with her four daughters. You have dreamed of a better life wanted to work hard for a future without poverty. Long shifts they sewed jeans for German textile markets. But then came the fire. On 11 September 2012, shortly before 19.00 clock, a fire broke out, which quickly seized all the factory premises.

The people wanted to flee, but they could not. Probably Rehanas daughters are in panic ran to the windows, emergency exits have been looking for. But the windows were barred, locked the doors, according to many workers apparently. Almost daily, new details shake us out of our sewing rooms in the Far East.

Spent factories, spies, lock the doors, sloppy fire. Certainly, the local firefighters have failed miserably. But it is above all the greed of Western corporations, the press apparently the prices and pass the pressure on suppliers. Efficient fire protection is often the last thing on the list of the owners.

(original text-german:Es ist nicht viel, was bleibt: Rehana zeigt uns ein Familienfoto mit ihren vier Töchtern. Sie haben von einem besseren Leben geträumt, wollten hart arbeiten für eine Zukunft ohne Armut. In langen Schichten nähten sie Jeanshosen für deutsche Textilmärkte. Doch dann kam das Feuer. Am 11. September 2012, kurz vor 19.00 Uhr, brach ein Brand aus, der schnell alle Fabrikräume ergriff.

Die Menschen wollten fliehen, doch sie konnten nicht. Wahrscheinlich sind auch Rehanas Töchter in Panik zu den Fenstern gerannt, haben die Notausgänge gesucht. Doch die Fenster waren vergittert, die Türen nach Angaben vieler Arbeiter offenbar verschlossen. Fast täglich erschüttern uns neue Details aus unseren Nähstuben in Fernost.

Abgebrannte Fabriken, Aufpasser, die die Türen verriegeln, schlampiger Brandschutz. Gewiss, auch die örtlichen Brandbekämpfer haben jämmerlich versagt. Doch es ist vor allem die Gier westlicher Konzerne, die offenbar die Preise drücken und den Druck an die Zulieferer weitergeben. Effizienter Brandschutz ist häufig das Letzte, was auf der Liste der Fabrikbesitzer steht.)

read en see more – video report german spoken.source here.

* Certified Safe, a Factory in Karachi Still Quickly Burned:

The century-old Central Jail here, a gritty repository of criminals, jihadists and sectarian killers, has a reputation for overcrowding and prisoner riots. But for Arshad and Shahid Bhaila, the industrialist brothers whose factory burned to the ground in September, killing at least 262 workers, there are some comforts.

As Category B prisoners, the Bhailas have a private room, a bathroom, a television and personally cooked meals. Those perks, to be sure, may prove only a short-lived solace once their trial begins next month and they face a possible death sentence on murder charges.

Yet their lawyer, in mounting a defense, is seeking to shelter the Bhailas behind a far greater source of comfort: an apparel industry certification system that gave their factory, Ali Enterprises, a clean bill of health just three weeks before the horrific blaze.

Despite survivors’ accounts of locked emergency exits and barred windows that prevented workers from leaping to safety, the Bhailas’ lawyer says their SA8000 certificate, issued under the auspices of Social Accountability International, a respected nonprofit organization based in New York, proves they were running a model business.

“This was a state-of-the-art factory that met international standards,” said the lawyer, Amer Raza Naqvi. “The SA8000 is accepted all over the world. They have very strict rules before issuing any certificate.” read more.

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20121208

* Hoping to prevent another Baldia-like tragedy, experts hash out recommendations:


“Factory owners should register their workers and should not treat them like machines,” PWF general secretary Zahoor Awan. PHOTO: FILE

Industrial accidents happen all over the world, but it amounts to a criminal act if the government turns a blind eye to such incidents. On the other hand, the Sindh government tackled the fallout from the Baldia Town factory fire tragedy in a prompt manner.

These views were expressed by Francesco d’Ovidio, country director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), as he was attending a consultation for formulating a plan of action to prevent industrial disasters in the future. The session was jointly organised by the ILO, the Sindh Labour Department, Employers Federation of Pakistan (EFP) and the Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF) on Thursday.

PWF general secretary Zahoor Awan stressed on the importance of factory owners properly registering their workers, and added that they should “not treat workers like machines”. Unregistered workers at the ill-fated Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town had created a host of problems for the government and nongovernmental organisations, as they were not sure how many workers were present in the factory when the file broke out. The participants also observed that when contracts are awarded to third parties, then the problem of unregistered workers rises.

While quoting a media report, Sindh labour secretary Arif Elahi said that the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) had issued 38,000 power connections to industrial units in the city, when the number of registered factories in Karachi is closer to 5,000. “We have 7,000 registered factories in the entire province, and therefore this [KESC figure] is ridiculous,” said Elahi. read more.

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20121209

* Baldia Factory Fire: Court dismisses bail application of two security guards:

A district and sessions court dismissed on Saturday the bail applications of two security guards of the Baldia garment factory.

The fifth additional district and sessions judge, West, Abdullah Channah, dismissed the bail-after-arrest applications of Ali Muhammad and Fazal Mehmood, and reserved the verdict.
The counsel for the guards, Muhammad Tamim Khan, said that the applications were denied around noon, but he could not get hold of the grounds on which the judge took that decision.

Khan will receive copies of the judgment on Monday, after which he said, he will file an application for bail in the Sindh High Court.
The police had arrested the guards on charges of their involvement in the factory fire that took over 250 lives in September this year. to read.

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20121210

* Fresh samples for DNA test sent to Islamabad:

Police investigators have sent fresh samples, collected again from the 33 unidentified bodies at the Edhi morgue, to a forensic laboratory in Islamabad for DNA matching with the families whose loved ones have been missing since the Sept 11 Baldia Town factory inferno.

The exercise for the identification of the 33 bodies, which are beyond recognition, was started afresh following a recent Sindh High Court directive in the Baldia factory fire case, while the families of many victims desperate to know their fate for the past three months have been told to wait for another two weeks.
The process, officials said, could take 15 to 20 days.

“We had collected the samples on Nov 30,” said Dr Jalil Qadir, the police surgeon who heads a medical team tasked with the job.

He said: “Thirty one complete bodies are beyond recognition, while two others can’t be said complete bodies but fragments of bodies. The samples of all 33 objects were collected and handed over to the police investigators for further process.”
read more.

* Baldia blaze fails to move authorities:

The horrific Baldia factory fire in September this year that claimed over 250 lives was apparently not enough to wake up the government’s welfare labourer institutes from their slumber as they are still not making any efforts to register the thousands of employees working at the city’s factories.

The registration would have paved way for ensuring safety measures at workplaces so that a tragedy like the one in Baldia does not recur, but the death of so many workers in that blaze failed to change the attitude of the authorities.

Besides, the high court had also ordered the authorities concerned to register industrial workers, but the directives remain unimplemented.
There are 5,000 industrial units in Korangi Industrial Area (KIA) and only half of them are registered with the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI), the Sindh Employees’ Social Security Institution (Sessi) and the Labour Department.

According to a survey conducted by The News, there are around 500,000 or 600,000 workers are these 2,500 industries. However, only 100,000 of them are registered with these institutes.

These unregistered workers have been serving in these industries for a long time and no efforts are being made to register them. There is also no action against the industrialists who did not have their workers registered. As per Sessi and the EOBI specifications, any industry where a minimum of five workers are working should have its employees registered with these organisations. read more.

* Now the threats:

The devastating fire in a garment factory in Baldia Town, Karachi on September 11 took the lives of over 250 labourers, 28 of whom are still lying in an Edhi morgue, unidentified and likely to be buried in nameless graves unless somebody comes forward to claim them.

This was the worst industrial accident in the history of Pakistan and has prompted much debate and soul searching about safety in the workplace, as well as giving rise to an ongoing court case – wherein tragedy is now compounded. The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), among other organisations, alleged at a press conference on Wednesday that the case being brought on behalf of the legal heirs of some of the victims has become the target of ‘threats’.

The case is an attempt to identify those responsible for the fire. At a hearing on December 3, it was alleged that the lawyer representing the complainants was ‘photographed’ in a presumed attempt to intimidate him. Many witnesses have changed their statements in court and more are said to be thinking of changing their statements at the next hearing – the presumption being that they have also been intimidated into recanting or altering their original words. read more.

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20121211

*  SAI: Q & A: Ali Enterprises Fire in Karachi:

Released: September 20, 2012 Updated: December 7, 2012

Social Accountability International’s (SAI) mission is to promote workers’ rights in a world often indifferent to them. All of us at SAI and at Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) are horrified by the fire at Ali Enterprises in Karachi,
Pakistan, on September 11, in which nearly 300 workers died and many more were injured.
On the day following the fire, SAAS was informed by RINA, a global certification body based in Genova, Italy, that RINA had issued an SA8000 certification to the Ali Enterprises factory on August 20, 2012.
SAAS, the accreditation agency that oversees the certification aspects of the SA8000 system, immediately began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the certification. We expect a full report to be issued in early 2013. In the
interim, both SAI and SAAS have been working to take action to improve the overall SA8000 system; these specific actions are detailed in the questions and answers below.
Many media reports in the days and weeks following the fire contained inconsistent factual information. After the fire, SAI issued a ‘Question & Answer’ (Q & A) document on September 20 to help sort through the inevitable confusion based on
verified information. As our investigation is ongoing, we have updated this Q & A document to provide more detail and information to the extent that we know them at this time. For additional information, you can dpwnload the pdf here..

* Tribunal identifies short circuit as cause:

The tribunal probing the Baldia factory fire has arrived at the conclusion that a short circuit was responsible for the horrific tragedy.

It has also stressed the need for strictly implementing the rules and regulations pertaining to old and newly-established factories
In its report presented to the provincial chief executive at the Chief Minister’s House on Monday, the tribunal described the causes of the horrific blaze, the damages incurred and the loss of life in the tragedy.

The tribunal head, Justice (Retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, who is also the chairman of the Pakistan Zakat Council, Sindh, also presented suggestions and recommendations with regard to the infrastructure of factories, security measures and the protection of labourers and other staff, according to a statement issued by the Chief Minister’s House.  read more.

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20121213

* Tribunal identifies short circuit as cause:

The tribunal probing the Baldia factory fire has arrived at the conclusion that a short circuit was responsible for the horrific tragedy.

It has also stressed the need for strictly implementing the rules and regulations pertaining to old and newly-established factories
In its report presented to the provincial chief executive at the Chief Minister’s House on Monday, the tribunal described the causes of the horrific blaze, the damages incurred and the loss of life in the tragedy.

The tribunal head, Justice (Retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, who is also the chairman of the Pakistan Zakat Council, Sindh, also presented suggestions and recommendations with regard to the infrastructure of factories, security measures and the protection of labourers and other staff, according to a statement issued by the Chief Minister’s House.  read more.

* SHC orders protection for witnesses, evidence to be ‘preserved’:


Petitioners’ lawyer claims in court that he is being threatened for taking up the case. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

The Sindh High Court ordered the home secretary and inspector-general of police on Wednesday to provide complete protection to the witnesses of the Baldia factory fire and also preserve the evidence so far collected “fully and effectively”.

The judges have also called a report of the inquiry into the factory fire which was conducted by a government-appointed judicial commission, headed by a retired judge of the high court.

The proceedings against the factory owners by the different workers and human rights organisations took a new turn on Wednesday, as their lawyer pleaded for urgent hearing of the case, saying that he was being “threatened for representing the case.”
Faisal Siddiqui, the lawyer representing the petitioners, told the judges that he had received a threatening call and that “some people took my pictures on my visit to the courts on December 3.”

Witness protection
The lawyer alleged that the prosecution witnesses were being harassed by the owners of Ali Enterprises – Arshad and Shahid Bhaila – for testifying in court against them. read more.

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20121217

* Baldia factory tragedy raises questions on fire dept efficiency:

The tragedy of Baldia Town factory fire, followed by a series of fire eruption in several industrial units in the metropolis, raised several questions on security measures and efficiency of relevant departments, particularly fire brigade department of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation.

The incident that claimed more than 350 innocent and precious lives jolted the entire society and opened a furious debate over various causes and impacts of the incident. Apart from the theories behind the cause of the tragedy, one of the main questions was if relevant departments, particularly fire brigade, is competent enough to combat any emergency or fire incident in the city.

Responding to the dire need of some solid measures and a comprehensive movement to avert such horrible incidents, labourers organistions joined hands andformed a consortium entitled ‘Workers Rights Movement’ so as to put a pressure on all stakeholders for some concrete steps, instead of lip services.

Talking to Daily Times,WRM leader Nasir Mansoor said in the case of Baldia town tragedy and other incidents, the criminal negligence of factory owners, incapability of the relevant rescue departments, including fire brigade, was a major cause of irreparable losses.
“If there was a snorkel, loss of lives could be significantly reduced.” He said that there were about 10,000 industrial units in the SITE area, out of which 90 percent were not registered, he claimed.  read more.

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20121220

*  Court calls for report on forensic tests:

The Sindh High Court has called for a detailed report on whether the various mandatory forensic tests at the Baldia factory fire site were carried out or not.

The division bench, headed by Justice Maqbool Baqir, was hearing a petition on Wednesday seeking a judicial inquiry of the fire at Ali Enterprises, where more than 250 people were burnt alive on September 11.
The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan among some factory workers and human rights organisations have taken the owners to court over their alleged negligence that led to the tragedy.

Various tests were to be carried out at the factory after the blaze but the authorities have yet to disclose if they have done any such forensic tests, argued Amir Raza Naqvi, the factory owners’ advocate.
He also gave the court a sealed envelope containing the details of the factory owners’ assets. The judges made the envelope a part of the record but said the decision to disclose the details shall be taken later. read more.
tribune

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20121223

* Jawad composes special song to pay tributes to workers:

Noted singer Jawad Ahmed has composed a special song to honour and remember those who died in the Baldia Factory tragedy and to show solidarity with their bereaved families.

Addressing a joint press conference at Karachi Press Club, Jawad Ahmed along with Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Karamat Ali and other trade union leaders announced a live concert of the song at Labour Square ground in SITE on Sunday December 30, 2012.

“My song is not only a tribute to the deceased workers, but an inspiration with a commitment that no such incident be happened in the future,” he said. This song will be presented at an event where the family members of the victims as well workers from SITE and other surrounding industrial areas of Karachi will be attending.
read more. & read more. & read more.
daily times PK   tribune thenation

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20121229

* A noble cause: With a new song, singer Jawad Ahmad shifts focus:

The concert may have been put off for a day but pop singer Jawad Ahmad is focused. “I have decided to sing for the working class of the country because I myself belong to this class,” he said as he briefed the media at Hotel Mehran on Friday about his latest song – composed in tribute to the Baldia factory workers, who died in a tragic fire on September 11.

The renowned vocalist will perform his newest tune “Mein Bhi Insaan Hoon” at the Labour Square Ground in SITE on Monday. The concert was originally scheduled to be held on December 30 but was postponed to December 31 over unexplained reasons.

Ahmad has now decided to focus his skills for the betterment of labourers. The lyrics of the song which express the feelings of the working people are his own creation. “The song is more than [just] a song. It’s a call and we will take it as a source of awareness for 85 per cent people of the country – the working class,” he told reporters. read more.
tribune

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20130101

* Song for change: Jawad Ahmed sings to bring a revolution for Pakistan’s labourers:

This concert was unlike any other – instead of posters of rock stars there were pictures of labourers. In the place of ear-piercing shrieks and head-banging, there was only silence and the tears of those so overwhelmed by what they had lost that the pain was no less intense than it was on the fateful day four months ago.

Singer Jawad Ahmed in collaboration with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) had organised a concert on Monday for the families of those who had lost their loved ones in the inferno that engulfed the Ali Enterprises garment factory on September 11. Ahmed had compiled a song titled ‘Pukaar’ for those who had perished in the flames.

“This is not a concert – it’s a wakeup call,” he roared to the hundreds of people who had turned up to the Labour Square ground in SITE, curious to see what he put together for them. As he began to sing, everybody in the ground stood up and silently held the pictures of their loved ones aloft as Ahmed worked the stage for two hours and sang the new song five times. During the final performance, everybody sang along. read more.
tribune

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20130102

* Jawad touches workers’ hearts with his performance:

A large crowd of factory workers, along with women and children belonging to families of hundreds of labourers who died in a massive fire in a garments factory in Baldia Town in September last year, was saddened and many cried over a song ‘Pukar’ by singer Jawad Ahmed at a concert on Monday.

The bereaved families and other workers of the factory were later enthralled by the second part of the song, which called for resolve not to let such incidents happen in future.

The song, a tribute to workers and solidarity with the families of over 250 labourers who died in one of the worst industrial tragedies in the country’s history on September 11, was presented by Ahmed in the concert organised for the labourers by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and other labour organisations and trade unions. read more. & read more in Music for change.
thenewspk

* Remembering Baldia victims:

Last week the 13th Akhtar Hameed Khan Development Forum came as a timely reminder of the injustice befalling the workers in a country where it is a crime to be poor. The forum focused on the Baldia fire tragedy, which has almost faded from public memory.

Now an annual Karachi landmark, the forum commemorates the philosophy and work of that iconic development theorist-cum-activist, whose insight into human nature and society was profound. Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan’s message of self-reliance and a participatory approach to development is most relevant today and has been kept alive by the Orangi Pilot Project, Research and Training Institute (OPP-RTI) under the able stewardship of its director Parveen Rahman.

The Baldia factory fire took place three-and-a-half months ago and a lot of information hitherto unknown has now surfaced. Hence the forum’s move to focus on the anti-workers’ dimension of the incident. Faisal Siddiqi, a lawyer with a conscience who is known for the pro bono work he does taking up cases on behalf of the poor, shed light on the catastrophic details of the events of Sept 11, 2012 when 260 plus people perished in a fire in a garment factory. read more.
dawn

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20130106


* European firm to pay compensation to heirs of Baldia fire victims:

The tragic factory fire had killed around 300 workers and injured several others.

A German buyer of the textile products has agreed to pay compensation to the victims of the Ali Enterprises fire tragedy in Baldia as well as to work for structural changes to improve the system of labour protection in Pakistan.

“Being the major buyer of the Ali Enterprises’ produce, the German brand ‘KiK Textilien’ has been persuaded by Pakistani trade union activists and international labour solidarity organisations including Clean Clothes Campaign to pay compensation to the affected families.”

This was stated by Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Karamat Ali and other trade union leaders and labour rights activists at a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Saturday. Those who were also present on the occasion included Nasir Mansoor of National Trade union Federation; Habibuddin Junaidi, Noor Mohammad and Rehana Yasmeen.

Karamat said Pakistan’s labour rights groups, including PILER had been working with international labour rights groups after the tragic factory fire in Karachi on September 11, 2012 that killed around 300 workers and injured several others.
read more.
daily times PK

* ‘German firm to pay $1m for Baldia factory fire victims’:

A major European buyer of textile products of the ill-fated Ali Enterprises, a factory in Baldia Town that was burnt down in an inferno a few months ago, has agreed to pay up to a total of $1 million as a compensation to the victims of the worst industrial disaster in the country, said labour leaders on Saturday.

Speaking at a press conference organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) at the Karachi Press Club, they said various labour organisations working with the victims would now approach the Sindh High Court to urge it to form a commission, comprising representatives of the workers and the government, to identify the victims and their legal heirs who could be paid compensation.

Piler chief Karamat Ali said Pakistani workers organisations working in association with their European counterparts identified the German brand/buyer, KiK Textilien, a major buyer of the Ali Enterprises’ products, and after persuasion by the workers’ bodies had agreed to pay the amount to the victims and the families affected by the inferno which left about 300 workers burnt to death and several others injured.
read more.
dawn

* Seven more bodies identified through DNA tests:

Seven more bodies of the Baldia factory fire, which were lying in Edhi’s cold storage, have been identified through DNA tests.

According to Edhi official Anwar Kazi, five of the seven indentified bodies were taken by the families while the remaining two are still with Edhi.
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) executive director Karamat Ali confirmed the identification of these bodies. “There are several more that need to be identified since their families are suffering,” he said.

The fourth month of the Baldia factory fire incident culminates next Friday, and 21 bodies have yet to be identified. At a news conference on Saturday, Ali announced that a German-based textile company, KiK Textilien, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Piler, under which the company will pay compensation to the victims of Ali Enterprises, the factory in which over 260 workers were burnt to death.  read more.
tribune

* Suspects to be indicted on 19th in factory blaze case:

A sessions court on Saturday set Jan 19 as the date for framing charges against owners and officials of a garment factory in Baldia Town, where a devastating fire had claimed the lives of over 250 workers.

The owner of the ill-fated industrial unit, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, who is on bail, and his sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, general manager Mansoor and three gatekeepers have been charge-sheeted in the case.
Additional District and Sessions Judge (west) Abdullah Channa supplied copies to the suspects under Section 265-C (supply of statements and docu-ments to accused) of the criminal procedure code and adjourned the hea-ring till Jan 19 for indictment.

Meanwhile, the same court also extended the interim pre-arrest bail of the managing director of the SITE limited, Abdul Rasheed Solangi, director of the labour department Zahid Gulzar Shaikh, additional controller civil defence Ghulam Akbar and chief inspector, electrical Amjad Ali till the next hearing. read more.
dawn

* Delay in DNA test results: No end to woes of Baldia missing workers’ families:

Long wait of the ill-fated families of Baldia Town garment factory victims who went ‘missing’ after an inferno burnt down the factory on Sept 11, 2012 has not yet ended and their patience is wearing thin by each passing day.

After waiting for more than a month they were told the forensic laboratory in Islamabad to which police had sent fresh samples of 33 unidentified bodies for DNA matching had not yet sent the results. The charred bodies have been kept at the Edhi morgue in Sohrab Goth.

The investigator of the case claimed to have sent the samples on Dec 1 under the Sindh High Court orders and expected to receive results within two weeks, but so far the lab has sent matches of only seven victims.

“We have received results of only seven DNA matches,” said Sub-Inspector Jehanzaib of the SITE-B police station, investigation officer of the Ali Enterprises inferno that killed more than 250 people. read more.
dawn

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20130111

* SHC seeks proposals to form commission for victims’ compensation:

The Sindh High Court called for proposals from the Sindh government, non-government organisations and owners of the Baldia garment factory on Thursday for constitution of a commission to disburse compensation provided by a German firm.

KiK Textilien, a German company, has offered to pay $1 million to those who were injured and families of the 259 workers who were killed in the fire which broke out at Ali Enterprises on September 11, 2012.

Headed by Justice Maqbool Baqir, the division bench was hearing petition filed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research, and other non-government organisations, who went to court for judicial investigation of the tragedy.

On Thursday, the court was informed that the petitioners and KiK, which was among the various importers Ali Enterprises was making garments for, had come to an agreement to distribute the compensation.

In the first phase, the families of those victims who had not been identified due to severity of burns and decomposition of bodies will be given the same amount as provided to others by the government or non-government sources so far.
read more.
tribune

* SHC loses patience with four-month delay:

More than 250 labourers died in a massive fire at a garments factory in Baldia Town on September 11 last year. Four months on, 33 victims who were burnt beyond recognition remain unidentified despite DNA tests, making their families endure an agonising wait.

On Thursday, the Sindh High Court (SHC) took great exception to the inordinate delay in the identification of these victims, and directed the police to obtain their DNA reports from the Islamabad laboratory in 10 days so that the bodies could be handed over to the affected families.

The court was hearing identical petitions seeking a judicial inquiry into the Category 3 fire, which caused one of the worst industrial disasters in the country’s history.

The petitioners, including the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, requested the constitution of a judicial commission to fix responsibility and suggest monetary compensation for the legal heirs of the victims.

A division bench, headed by Justice Maqbool Baqar, observed that it was painful to note that the fire incident had occurred on September 11, but the identity of over 33 victims had not yet been confirmed. read more.
thenewspk

* KIK signs compensation agreement for Victims of Ali Enterprises Fire Tragedy:

German discount giant KIK this week signed an agreement with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) to make an initial payment to the victims and their families of US$ 1 million for immediate relief, and to negotiate a long term compensation package with all other involved stakeholders.

The Ali Enterprises fire on 11 September 2012 [1] killed 262 workers according to the official death toll, and injured at least 20 others.

The agreement was presented a press conference in Karachi on 5 January in which various local trade unions, including the National Trade Union Federation, participated. Said Karamat Ali, Executive Director of PILER: “KIK is the major buyer of Ali Enterprises. Pakistani trade union activists and international labour solidarity
organisations including Clean Clothes Campaign persuaded the company to pay compensation to the affected families.”

The initial payment will be used to compensate the families of those victims who have not received any government compensation as the bodies have not been identified due to the severity of the burns and the decomposition of the bodies.

“KIK also expressed a willingness to compensate workers who faced severe injuries in the fire leading to disability and loss of future employment. The remaining workers will be assisted in the next step after a compensation amount is agreed upon through a consensus between all stakeholders including employers and other international companies,” added Karamat Ali.

Ineke Zeldenrust, International Coordinator at CCC: ‘We welcome this agreement and look forward to having the full compensations and relief package, which we estimate will be at least 20 million Euro, to be negotiated soon. We continue our campaign towards other international stakeholders, notably auditing organisations SAI and Rina , to also take their responsibility and pay their share of the compensation needed.”

In order to facilitate the compensation process, PILER requests the Sindh High Court to constitute an independent commission to oversee the compensation process and determine all necessary details for the purpose. KIK also agreed to work for better labour rights in Pakistan.

CCC

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20130113

* Victims of Baldia factory fire: Parents ask court to expedite DNA tests for unidentified bodies:

The parents of two workers, who were killed in the blaze that broke out at Ali Enterprises on September 11, 2012, filed a case at the Sindh High Court on Saturday against the authorities for failing to determine the identity of their children through DNA tests.

Hussain Ahmed and Dilawar Hussain are among those parents whose sons’ remains are yet to be identified.

At least 259 workers – according to official statistics – were killed in one of the biggest industrial disasters in the country. Rescue workers had retrieved 33 unidentified bodies, charred beyond recognition, from the destroyed building out of which only seven have been identified through DNA tests.  read more.
tribune

* Poor man’s justice:

Two hundred and fifty-nine people died in the Baldia garment factory fire tragedy in Karachi on Sept 11, 2012.

Before this, the highest number of people killed in a factory fire was 146 in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist garment factory in New York and 187 in the 1993 doll factory fire in Thailand. The factory fire death record remains firmly in Pakistan’s hands.

The prosecution, under the Sindh government, has accused the owners/management of M/s Ali Enterprises running the Baldia factory of deliberate gross criminal negligence, charging them with murder under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Contrary to Pakistani practice, this was a surprisingly correct legal approach in this case.

But then, in a speech to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Dec 29, the prime minister is reported to have said: “Authorities should reinvestigate the case and provide justice to the employers of Ali Enterprises if a wrong case has been registered against the factory owners under Section 302 [murder]”. And the KCCI president provided the icing on the cake by describing the tragic fire as merely “an accident”.

The importance of the above statements lies in the tragic fact that there is no understanding about the historical significance of the Baldia factory fire and its implication on the key question as to whether the poor can ever get justice in Pakistan. It has three significant features. read more.
dawn

* SHC seeks comments on delay in identifying victims:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Saturday issued notices to the interior secretary, the provincial police chief and the SITE station house officer on a petition over the failure of the authorities to identify two victims of a Baldia garments factory fire despite the lapse of over four months.

Hussain Ahmed and Dilawar Hussain submitted that their sons, Sharjeel and Asif Aziz, who were worked as a helper and a pressman in the ill-fated factory, Ali Enterprises, lost their lives in the September 11, 2011 blaze, which claimed the lives of more than 250 employees.

They said the authorities obtained blood samples twice for identifying the victims, but despite the lapse of over four months the bodies had been neither identified nor handed over to them for funeral.

The petitioners said that despite a government announcement of compensation for the legal heirs of the victims, they were not being given any compensation. They claimed that the tragic incident had taken place due to lack of safety measures and dishonesty and negligence on the part of the factory owners, other shareholders and government departments, including labour, environment, civil defence, social security and buildings control. read more.
thenewspk

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20131114

* Baldia factory fire case: Police drop ‘intentional murder’ charge against suspects:

In the second such turnaround in the Baldia factory fire case, investigators have dropped premeditated murder charges against all nominated suspects due to “lack of evidence”.

More than 250 people lost their lives on September 11 last year when a fire broke out at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia Town. The case was registered against the factory owners, its general manager, security guards and some government officials over negligence but sections related to intentional murder were also added later.

Now the police have prepared a supplementary charge-sheet withdrawing the accusation because no substantial evidence was found directly implicating the suspects in the killings. read more. & read more.
tribune  dawn

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20130116

* Accountability: Baldia fire commission report sought:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the provincial law officer on Tuesday to submit the report of the judicial commission on the Baldia factory fire by January 24.

Justice Maqbool Baqir, who headed the bench, noted that the report had not been submitted by the provincial law officer despite court orders.
He adjourned the case till January 24 and directed the advocate general to submit the report in court.
Meanwhile, the terms of reference to form a commission to disburse the $1 million compensation pledged by a German firm were also submitted. read more.
tribune

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20130122

* Court calls up prosecutor to argue Baldia factory owners’ bail plea:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has called up one of the special public prosecutors to argue the bail pleas of the Ali Enterprises owners on January 28.

The directives came on Monday as the court took up the bail pleas of the Bhaila brothers, who own Ali Enterprises, the garment factory that caught fire on September 11 last year and resulted in the deaths of over 250 workers.

The police arrested Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila after a sessions court rejected their pre-arrest bail applications on October 6, 2012. Their ailing father, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, was granted bail due to old age.

The jailed brothers went to the SHC for concession of bail through their lawyer, Amir Raza Naqvi, who alleged the prosecution had falsely implicated his clients for murder. “They had no intention to kill their own workers and ruin their own business,” he said. “It was simply an accident.”  read more.
tribune

* Jawad Ahmed pays tribute to victims of Baldia factory fire:

Singer Jawad Ahmed is all set to make a comeback with his single Mein Bhi Insaan Hoon, a tribute to the victims of a fire that engulfed Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town and claimed over 200 lives on September 11, 2012.

Ahmed first became popular when the release of his single Allah Meray Dil Ke Andar, a song that talks about the transcendental existence of God. Listeners appreciated the catchy tune and quick rhythm, along with its message of inner peace. After appealing to his audience’s spiritual side, Ahmed is now trying to connect with a wider audience through Mein Bhi Insaan Hoon. The new track is part of his initiative to create awareness about labour laws in Pakistan.
It seems that Ahmed is leveraging his popularity to create social awareness and consciousness; if you ever see him out in public, you’ll notice that a crowd is usually following.

“People had said that the Baldia fire tragedy was a serious issue,” says Ahmed. “But the masses did not understand why.” He further added, “There are really no labour rights in this country. For me, this is important, because I am part of the working class and my efforts will now highlight the struggle of peasants and workers.”
read more.
tribune

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20130124

* Case against Baldia factory owners withdrawn:

Minister of State for Finance, Salim Mandviwala Wednesday disclosed that the case registered against the owners of Baldia Town factory has been withdrawn.

Talking to mediamen in Karachi, the State Minister said that the above case was withdrawn on the orders of Prime Minister.
He said Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had promised the office bearers of Karachi Chamber of Commerce (KCCI) to have the case withdrawn during his visit to the chamber.
It is pertinent to mention here that more than 250 employees were charred to death following the eruption of fire into the Baldia Town factory, dubbed as the worst fire incident in Pakistan’s history. to read.
PAKOBSERVER

* Baldia Town factory fire: Murder charges against factory owners dropped:

In a move that is likely to baffle most and one that reeks of a cover-up, murder charges against the owners of the Baldia Town factory – the worst factory fire in the world in recent times – have been withdrawn, confirmed Minister of State for Finance Saleem Mandviwalla on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, in a meeting with the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), assured members of the business community that murder charges against the factory owners would be dropped.

However, in a late night development on Wednesday, Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad approached the premier and President Asif Ali Zardari to reconsider the decision. The governor told the media that the president had assured him that injustice will not be meted out to the victims’ families.

Moments after the telephonic conversation, Ebad contacted Sindh Inspector General Police Fayaz Leghari to continue the investigation into the case without changing the investigation officers. According to reports, Mandviwala is likely to arrive in Karachi soon to hold meetings with the business community and Sindh governor.
read more. & read more. & read more.
tribune  dawn  geonewslogo

* Ebad concerned over factory blaze remark:

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad has contacted President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez, expressing concern over the reports that the government dropped murder charges against the owners of a Baldia Town factory where fire killed over 250 people in the country’s worst industrial fire incident, Geo News reported.

The president assured the governor that all the requisites of justice would be met during the course of investigation into the incident.
The governor requested the prime minister that all the constitutional and legal requisites should be implemented so that justice could be provided to the victims.
He said that a case lodged against the owners of the factory under section 302 (premeditated murder) should not be withdrawn. read more.
thenewspk

* Minister changes statement over withdrawal of case against owners:

Minister of State for Finance Salim Mandviwala first disclosed on Wednesday that the case registered against the owners of the Baldia Town garments factory — where a fire had killed more than 250 labourers in September last year — had been withdrawn, and then clarfied that it had not, Geo News reported.

Earlier the minister had said that the case of the Baldia Town garments factory, where a fire had killed more than 250 labourers in September last year, had been withdrawn following directives from Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
He had said the prime minister has promised the office-bearers of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce (KCCI) to have the case withdrawn during his visit to the chamber.
(…)
Meanwhile, Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ebad, during a telephonic conversation with the prime minister, has expressed concern over the withdrawal of the case. He also informed Prime Minister Ashraf regarding the legal aspects of the case and asked him not to withdraw the case as it would be injustice with families of the victims.

Later, Governor Ebad directed the IG Sindh to proceed with the case and fulfil all legal aspects providing justice the families of the victims. The coordination committee of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement has also demanded fair and independent investigation of the Baldia factory fire case.
read more.
thenewspk

* Sindh Governor calls Zardari, Ashraf over Baldia factory fire case:

Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan called President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf late on Wednesday evening, appealing to them for ensuring provision of justice for the victims of the Baldia fatory fire, Express News reported.

The governor expressed concern over news that it had been decided to withdraw murder charges against the factory owners. He added that the case cannot be closed in such a manner.
The governor also directed Inspector General Police to speed up investigations in the matter.

Investigators had on January 13 decided to withdraw “intentional murder” charges against all nominated suspects, including the owners of the factory, Ali Enterprises due to lack of substantial evidence. The premier too had taken a personal interest in the case.
Anjuman Tajran Balochistan Quetta city president Nasir Tareen told APP on Wednesday that the Karachi administration had wrongly registered a case under section 302 against the owners of gutted factory prior to finding actual cause of the incident that left over 250 innocent workers killed.  read more.
tribune

* Case against Baldia factory owners not to be withdrawn: Zardari:

President Asif Ali Zardari has assured that the case against owners of fire-struck Baldia factory would not be withdrawn by the government.

The President assured Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan who telephoned him following media reports that Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has ordered withdrawal of case, four months after the industrial disaster in the history of Pakistan.
More than 250 people were perished in the fire at a garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town in October last year.

The case had been registered against three owners of the factory –Abdul Aziz, Shahid Bhaila and Rashid Bhaila.
Reports said the PM on Wednesday ordered withdrawal of FIR against the industrialists, fulfilling his promise he made with office-bearers of Karachi Chamber of Commerce (KCCI).  read more.
pakTODAY

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20130125

* PM’s alleged direction in Baldia Factory case:

PPP Senators Raza Rabbani, Babar Awan and Awami National Party legislators on Thursday staged a walkout over the expungement of section 302 against owners of the Baldia Garments Factory Karachi on the direction of the prime minister.

The Baldia Garments Factory caught fire a few months ago in which 270 people were killed. An FIR had been lodged against the owners under section 302. Before the walkout, PPP’s Senator Raza Rabbani told the senators during a briefing that about 270 people were killed in the factory fire.

There are six gates of the factory of which five were locked, while the sixth was closed during the fire. He said the locking of the gate caused the death of the workers for which an FIR was registered against owner of the factory and investigation was opened. However, he regretted that some people met Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf after which he ordered cancellation of section 302 against the factory owners, and also changed the investigative officer.
read more.
daily times PK

* ‘Case against Baldia factory owners not to be withdrawn’:

President Asif Ali Zardari has assured that a case against owners of fire-struck Baldia factory would not be withdrawn by the government.

The President held out this assurance to Governor Sindh Dr. Ishratul Ibad Khan who telephoned him following a report that Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has ordered withdrawal of case, four months after the worst-ever industrial disaster in the history of Pakistan.
More than 250 people were perished the fire at a garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town in October last year.  to read. & read more.
PAKOBSERVER  thenewspk

* Senators walk out against PM’s ‘favour’ to Baldia factory owners:

In a rare show of protest from treasury benches against the decision of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to drop murder charges against the owners of Baldia Town Factory in Karachi, PPP lawmakers led by Senator Raza Rabbani and Awami National Party Thursday staged a protest walkout from the Senate.

Raza Rabbani said that on prime minister’s intervention, Section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) regarding murder charges was being dropped from the first information report (FIR), registered against the owners of the factory of Baldia Town where a massive fire last year killed more than 270 labourers. He said that there was a criminal negligence of the owners in that tragic incident.

The PPP central leader said that theirs was a party of the labourers and it could never support the capitalists charged with killing of labourers. He said when labourers in Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) used to protest for their rights, they were charged under anti-terrorism laws and when labourers of the garment factory were killed, the murder charges are being dropped against the negligent owners.  read more.
thenation

* Treasury bench protests dropping of murder charges on PM’s orders:

A fuming Raza Rabbani led a walkout from the Senate on Wednesday in protest against the prime minister’s directives to drop the murder charges against the owners of a factory in Karachi, where a fire last year caused the deaths of over 200 people.

On a point of order, Senator Rabbani from the Pakistan Peoples Party expressed deep concern over reports that section 302 had been scrapped from the FIR lodged against the owners of the Baldia Town factory, where 289 workers burnt to death on September 11, 2012.

On Wednesday, in a meeting with the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had assured the business community that the murder charges against the factory owners would be dropped. This was confirmed by Minister of State for Finance Saleem Mandviwalla.  read more.
tribune

* PM’s office clarifies he asked murder charges to be re-investigated not withdrawn:

The prime minister had not ordered anyone to withdraw the case against the owners of the Baldia garment factory, said his press secretary, Shafqat Jalil, on Thursday. He had instead asked the Sindh chief secretary to re-investigate if they were falsely implicated.

This statement comes amid reports that Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had ordered for the all-important murder charge to be dropped against the owners of the factory where at least 259 people had perished in an inferno on September 11 last year. The trial is set to begin four months on.

Jalil told The Express Tribune that the PM’s directives were given much earlier, on December 29, at an event organised by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Earlier, Prime Minister Ashraf had no idea under which section the case was registered against the owners of Ali Enterprises,” Jalil said, adding that the premier was “shocked” when the business community told him that the case was registered under Section 302 (premeditated murder). However, the FIR was registered three months earlier, on September 11.   read more.
tribune

* Unless families agree, murder charges can’t be dropped, say Lawyers:

20130125 TRIBUNE familymenbersFILEPhotoAyeshaMirExpress
Family members gathered outside the factory after the fire hoping for some good news. FILE PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

There are only two ways that premeditated murder charges can be dropped against the owners of the Baldia garment factory that was gutted in Pakistan’s worst industrial fire.

Either the families of the victims can agree to it or the prosecution must successfully prove there isn’t enough evidence to support it. The prime minister’s surprising order to drop the charges, however, holds no legal water, say legal experts.

On September 11, last year, at least 259 workers were trapped and burnt to death in the multi-storey Ali Enterprises that was said to be ISO-9000 certified. Owner Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his two sons Arshad and Shahid are facing charges of murder, criminal negligence and common intent. Also booked in the case were five factory employees and four government officials.  read more.
tribune

* Govt won’t be allowed to rob victims of justice:

Left with nowhere to go after all exits were bolted from the outside, around 300 workers were destined to a tragic fate on the premises of Ali Enterprises and labour organisations believe that the government’s decision to withdraw Section 302 from the case against the factory owners is criminal to say the least.

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education Research (Piler) said on Thursday it would not allow the government to obstruct the course of justice.
The institute was joined by other organisations at the Karachi Press Club. All reacted very strongly to the government’s decision to withdraw Section 302 from the case and deal with the matter under Qisas and Diyat.
Director Piler Karamat Ali told a press conference that the government, including the prime minister, had no moral right to withdraw the murder section against the factory owners.   read more.
thenewspk

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20130127

* ‘What if it were the PM’s son?’  :

“If it had been the prime minister’s son instead of mine, would he have spared the owners?” asked Mohammad Sharif as tears gushed down his face.

Sharif’s eldest son, Hanif, who had a speech and hearing impairment, was among the hundreds of victims who died muted deaths as flames licked the top floor of the factory.

Hanif, 21, worked as a machine operator at Ali Enterprises and despite the disability, was working to contribute to his household with aims to build a roof over his almost mud-plastered house in Ittehad Town.

“My son had small wishes. He wanted to construct rooms and get married,” said the white-bearded Sharif as he choked back his grief on a charpoy (bed) borrowed from a neighbour. The family of nine had been cramming into a single room for the past 25 years. But, Hanif was going to change that; his savings were dedicated to changing the conditions his family lived in.

As the family deals with the loss of Hanif, the news of the murder charges being dropped only adds to their woes. “If the owners are set free, we will lodge murder cases individually. Then we will see how they escape,” said Bashir, Hanif’s uncle.

Shahida Parveen, who dwells with her three children in front of Sharif’s house, was left a widow by the Baldia Town fire.
“I spend every night cursing the owners and weeping. Why didn’t the owners die in the fire? Why was it only the poor?” she said.

Shahida’s husband, Akmal worked as a supervisor at the stitching floor. The family lost their sole breadwinner with Akmal’s death.
“Only God knows how I am living. I don’t have money to buy milk for my children.”

read more.
tribune

* Negligence is not murder, insists KCCI:

Despite widespread uproar over the reports of the government’s decision to drop murder charges against the owner of Ali Enterprises, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) – the biggest chamber of the country – insists that they should be withdrawn and instead the case should continue on the lines of “alleged negligence” on the part of the owner.

The chamber believes there is a clear-cut difference between murder and negligence – both are not in any way synonymous.

“We want the government to complete all the investigations as soon as it can and take action if negligence is proven against the owner of the factory,” KCCI President Muhammad Haroon Agar said in an interview with The Express Tribune. “But we believe that murder charges against the owner are unjustified and should be withdrawn immediately.

“In case of such incidents, even if negligence is proven, you cannot be booked for murder,” said Agar, when asked why the KCCI insists that the government drop the murder charges. “Yes, one may be jailed in such cases and we would not have any problem if he were jailed on charges of negligence.”  read more.
tribune

* Fire fallout:

The Baldia factory fire last year killed 289 people and should have become the focus for a concerted nationwide campaign to raise the standards of safety in the workplace.

So many workers died because the doors were locked from the outside and the firefighting and warning systems were inadequate – both within the factory and in terms of responses by the emergency services. Yet, instead of being a tragedy from which lessons are learned and new measures implemented, it has turned into a legal battlefield in which the losers may be the relatives of the dead and the winners the factory owners who bear a considerable responsibility for the lives lost.

The government’s response to the tragedy says a great deal about how our ‘democratic’ leaders think and the extent to which they respect – or fail to respect – the rights of the working classes. The families of the dead were shocked on Wednesday last week when Minister of State for Finance Salim Mandviwalla said that charges under Section 302 against the factory owners were being withdrawn from the case. read more.
thenewspk

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20130128

* Tribunal chief alleges negligence on part of management:

The inquiry tribunal, formed by the Sindh government to ascertain the causes of Baldia factory fire, has submitted its report to the Sindh Home Department and the Chief Minister but it is yet to be made public.

The tribunal, led by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alavi and assisted by Additional Secretary Home Dr. Khalil-ur-Rehman, was given the task to ascertain the causes of fire at M/s Ali Enterprises in September 2012 and fix responsibility.

Talking to The News on Sunday, Chairman of the Tribunal Justice Alavi said that he has submitted the inquiry report to the Home Department as well as the chief minister Sindh, which should be made public, adding: “I have already made the report public when I allowed media to report all proceedings of the tribunal”.
read more.
thenewspk

* SHC issues notices to PM’s principal secretary, others:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday issued notices to Ayub Qazi, the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, and others for Feb 14 for allegedly interfering in the Baldia factory fire case, DawnNews reported.

A local NGO had filed a petition in the court requesting it to take notice of interference from Prime Minister Ashraf in the Baldia factory fire case and had asked the SHC to declare the alleged intrusion as illegal.

The case filed against the owners of fire-struck garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town was withdrawn on the prime minister’s discretion, State Minister for Finance Salim Mandviwalla had said on Jan 23.
The petitioner argued that the prime minister had acted in violation of the Constitution and the decision to withdraw the murder case was against provincial autonomy.
read more.
dawn

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20130129

* ‘Jobless of Baldia factory fire tragedy being given jobs’:

The Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said those who lost their jobs in a Baldia factory fire tragedy were being accommodated in other garment factories.

KCCI said the employers were also providing ration and necessary medical help to the victim’s families and injured. KCCI will make sure the owners compensate the victims adequately.

Karachi Chamber and all the business and industrial community of Karachi had reservations from the day one in respect of handling Baldia fire tragedy, instead of conducting fair and impartial investigation and as a result thereof fixing the responsibility/charges, an FIR was lodged against the owners with PPC 302 (Premeditated murder) along with other clauses pertaining to negligence/accident etc.

KCCI has been agitating the application of PPC 302 in an industrial accident case, as KCCI believes no industrialists or businessmen would purposely destroy his own factory and commit murder of his own workers and it is also not according to the law.
read more.
daily times PK

* Baldia fire case SHC issues notices to PM’s PS, others:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday issued notices to Ayub Qazi, the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, and others for Feb 14 for allegedly interfering in the Baldia factory fire case.

A local NGO had filed a petition in the court requesting it to take notice of interference from Prime Minister Ashraf in the Baldia factory fire case and had asked the SHC to declare the alleged intrusion as illegal.

The case filed against the owners of fire-struck garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town was withdrawn on the prime minister’s discretion, State Minister for Finance Salim Mandviwalla had said on Jan 23. read more. & read more. & read more.
PAKOBSERVER  thenation

* Fair probe demanded into Baldia fire inferno:

Reacting on the debate ongoing all over the media and in the parliament regarding the factory fire incident in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry reiterates its position on the matter for all the concerned.

KCCI said, “It was undoubtedly a horrible incident of fire and the loss of 259 lives is a colossal tragedy and by all means it should be investigated fairly.” It said the responsibility be fixed and whosoever was found at fault or negligent must be punished accordingly as per the law of the land and all such measures be taken to avoid such reoccurrence in future.

Karachi Chamber strongly believes that all the affected families must be compensated accordingly that is why Karachi Chamber had requested all the concerned to compensate the victim’s families including the owners. It is pertinent to mention here that federal and Sindh governments have already compensated the victims’ heirs.
The KCCI has also been able to get other garment factories to adjust the employees who have lost their jobs in the said incident. The employers are also providing ration and necessary medical help to the victim’s families and the injured. It will make sure that the owners compensate the victims adequately.  read more.
thenation

* Notices issued on plea against removal of murder charge in Baldia factory fire case:

The Sindh High Court on Monday issued notices to the principal secretary of the prime minister, the Sindh chief secretary and others in a petition against the removal of the murder charge on a direction of the PM against owners of the Baldia Town garment factory, where a devastating fire had claimed lives of over 250 workers.

The petition was filed jointly by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research, the Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum, the National Trade Union Federation, the Hosiery Garments Textile and General Workers Union, Javed Iqbal Burki and Syed Ammad Bin Tahir.

The petitioners, represented by Advocates Faisal Siddiqui and Waseem Iqbal Malik, also impleaded the home secretary, the provincial police chief, the director-general of the Sindh Building Control Authority, the Sindh labour secretary, secretary of the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, the Regional Inspection and Certification Agency (pvt) Limited, RINA Services of Italy and the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency as respondents.

A division bench headed by Justice Maqbool Baqar issued notices to all respondents and put off the hearing to Feb 14.  read more.
dawn

* SHC reserves order on bail pleas:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday reserved its order on bail pleas of owners, production manager, and watchman of the garment factory of Karachi that caught fire on September 11 last year and resulted in more than 250 deaths.

Police had arrested Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila after a sessions court rejected their pre-arrest bail applications on October 6, 2012, whereas their ailing father, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, was granted bail due to old age.
Amir Raza Naqvi on behalf of the applicants, namely Arshad Abdul Aziz and Shahid Abdul Aziz, submitted that investigation carried out by the police into the incident was influenced and full of errors. He said that they had no intention to kill their own workers and ruin their own business, adding that it was just an accident.
He said that police recorded the statements of more 800 witnesses, and not a single witness had testified that the factory owners had ordered to seal the factory doors when the fire erupted.  read more.
pakTODAY

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20130131

* SHC forms body to distribute compensation:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday constituted a commission under the supervision of former Supreme Court Judge, Justice (retd) Rehmat Hussain Jaffery, to distribute compensation to the legal heirs of the Baldia factory fire victims.

The court was hearing identical petitions seeking a judicial inquiry over the tragic fire that erupted at the Ali Enterprises factory and claimed the lives of nearly 300 people in September of last year.

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and others filed a petition in Sindh High Court for the constitution of a judicial commission to determine the people responsible for the tragedy and suggest monetary compensation for the legal heirs of the victims.

The court also directed the police to complete the identification process of 24 fire victims so that the bodies could be handed over the families.
The counsel of the factory owners Amir Raza Naqvi said that compensation worth Rs. 61.8 million would be taken from the accounts of the factory owners and deposited to the Nazir. read more.
thenewspk

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20130201

* Pakistani unions demand justice for textile workers:

Outraged by the news that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf called for murder charges to be dropped against the brothers who own a Karachi garment factory where 259 workers were killed, unions in Pakistan protested on 30 January 2013.

The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), an IndustriALL affiliate, and other labour rights organizations have filed petitions against the owners of Ali Enterprises, the garment factory in Karachi where almost 300 workers were killed in a devastating fire on 12 September 2012. (http://www.industriall-union.org/horror-in-pakistan-after-300-workers-die) As it is a case of loss of life, the State initiates the legal actions, NTUF and others have filed petitions, which are being heard by the Sindh High Court.

Mr. Ashraf intervened in the factory fire case on 29 December in an address to Karachi business leaders where he recommended the murder charges be withdrawn against the owners, brothers Arshad and Shahid Bhaila, who have been in jail since September and face trial. Two weeks after the Prime Minster’s comments, a senior police official applied with the court to have the charge dropped. read more.
INDUSRIall

20130203

* Beacon of hope: Compensation in sight for Baldia fire families:

While the fate of the intentional murder proceedings against the owners of the Baldia garment factory has yet to be decided, there appears to be some relief for the victims’ families.

The Sindh High Court has formed an independent commission, headed by former Supreme Court judge Rehmat Hussain Jaffery, to disburse the amount of compensation pledged by the government and private parties among the victims’ families.

A petition was filed by several human rights organisations demanding an “independent” judicial investigation of the fire that broke out in Ali Enterprises on September 11, 2012, and killed up to 259 workers. The owners of the factory were taken into custody but Abdul Aziz Bhaila was let go due to his old age. His sons, Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, some employees and government officials are currently in jail on charges of intentional murder and criminal negligence.
read more.
tribune

* Looking for a way out?: SHC reserves order on Baldia factory owners’ bail plea:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) reserved its verdict on Monday on bail applications filed by the owners and employees of the Baldia factory, where the country’s worst industrial disaster took place.

Abdul Aziz Bhaila, his sons, Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, are among the factory managers and government officials, who are facing charges of murder, criminal negligence and common intention. Nearly 259 workers were killed when Ali Enterprises caught fire on September 11, last year.

The police arrested Arshad and Bhaila after a sessions court rejected their pre-arrest bail applications on October 6, 2012. Their ailing father, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, was granted bail due to his old age.

Opposing their bail applications, special public prosecutor Shazia Hanjrah said there was strong evidence available on record to prove their role in the alleged offence. “There is a list of 830 witnesses of the tragic incident,” she said. “A number of witnesses, including the workers of Ali Enterprises and its adjoining industrial units, have clearly stated that the factory owners had ordered their watchmen to lock up all the doors after the fire broke out.” read more.
tribune

* Dna testing: Another body identified:

The body of another Baldia factory fire victim was handed over on Monday to his family after DNA tests had revealed his identity.

According to an Edhi spokesperson, the body was that of 42-year-old Mohammad Azeem, who used to live in Sector 14-A, Orangi Town. It was handed over to his family after being identified through DNA tests. The spokesperson added that 20 more unidentified bodies are still lying in Edhi cold storage and their DNA test reports have yet to be received. to read.
tribune

* Baldia factory fire case: Murder charge removed without informing prosecutor, court told:

A special public prosecutor told a sessions court on Saturday that the investigation officer of the Baldia Town factory fire case had dropped the murder charge in a supplementary charge-sheet without informing her and she wanted to give arguments against it.

The owner of the ill-fated industrial unit, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, and his two sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, general manager Mansoor and gatekeepers Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood, Ali Mohammad and Shahrukh have been charge-sheeted in the case.

Recently, the IO submitted a supplementary charge-sheet in court in which he dropped Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code and charge-sheeted the suspects only in Sections 322 (punishment for qatl-bis-sabab), 337 (Shajjah) and 34 (common intention) of the PPC read with Section 512 (record of evidence in absence of accused) of the criminal procedure code and also exempted officials of the civic agencies. read more.
dawn

* Court seeks prosecutor’s help over supplementary charge sheet:

To accept or not to accept the supplementary charge sheet minus Section 302 in the Baldia factory fire case is the question. And the additional district and sessions court (West) directed the special public prosecutor on Saturday to assist it in determining what should be done.

Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, two of the three owners of the ill-fated factory, Ali Enterprises, are among several people, including factory manager and staffers and the SITE MD, who are facing charges of murder (Qatal-bisabab), attempt to murder and mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage.

Investigation Officer (IO) Jehanzaib Khan had filed the supplementary charge sheet on January 5 after removing Section 302 (Qatl-e-Amd) of the Pakistan Penal Code, submitting that since no case of murder with intent was made out, he dropped the murder charges. Section 302 had been part of the previous two charge sheets presented to the court. The court asked Special Public Prosecutor Shazia Hanjra to argue so as to determine whether or not the supplementary charge sheet after the removal of Section 302 could be accepted. read more.
thenewspk

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20130204

* Baldia inferno case: a cover-up:

The Baldia inferno was a big accident. I personally went through the entire police file and the order of the magistrate in which he had issued warrants for arrest of officials of the civil defence, labour department and SITE.

There was a clear violation of the cabinet meeting’s decision of 2001 in which it was decided that the labour department and civil defence would carry out a joint visit twice a month to various factories, but during the past 11 years there had not been a single visit.

While going through the police file, before inserting section 302 PPC, I asked inquiry officer Jahan Zeb about the performance of fire-tenders and the role of the officers of Civil Defence Department, Labour Department and SITE. I did not get any proper reply.

Although investigators knew that there were other factors involved such as extortion and terrorism, they were only concerned about the deletion of Section 302 PPC instead of taking action against the negligent departments.

I would like to draw the attention of victims’ families that prosecutors worked on the case under stress so that government officers should not be nominated as accused, and the police did not furnish a list of all officers who had been working since 2001 till the incident.
The repetition of such an incident cannot be ruled out because our government functionaries have been providing shelter to the culprits.
A VICTIM.
toread .
dawn

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20130205

* Another body identified:

Another body previously recovered from the Baldia factory fire and which was lying in Edhi’s cold storage, has been identified on Monday through a DNA test.
According to officials, the identified body was later taken by the family members of the deceased while 19 other unidentified bodies were still in the possession of Edhi centre.
The sources said that the victim was identified as Mohammad Afzal s/o Mohammad Ashraf.
The 27-year-old victim was a resident of Orangi Town’s sector 13-D, they further said. On September 11 last year, over 260 workers were burnt to death when fire engulfed Ali Enterprises, the factory situated in Baldia Town area of Karachi. to read.
pakTODAY

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20130207

* Compensation: Families of Baldia victims hold protest:

The families of the victims of Baldia factory fire held a protest near the building of the Sindh Assembly on Wednesday demanding that they be paid compensation announced by the government.

“In addition to compensations, pensions should also be given to the next-of-kin of the victims,” said one elderly protester. The protesters moved on to the Karachi Press Club as the police didn’t allow them to approach the assembly gate. Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, on the other hand, told the media that compensations had already been paid. to read.
tribune

* Jawad Ahmad launches video for Baldia affectees:

Famous singer Jawad Ahmed on Wednesday launched a video of his song “Sun Lo Keh Hm Mazdoor hen” here at a local hotel.

Jawad dedicated this song to the laborers killed in Baldia Town factory fire incident. On the occasion, while expressing solidarity with laborers of the world, he told that he was a laborer himself and most of the people did not know this fact. to read.
thenation

* Sunn Lo Kay Hum Mazdoor Hain By Jawad Ahmad- for Baldia affectees:

 WORKER OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

Jawad Ahmad’s Song “Sunn Lo Kay Hum Mazdoor Hain” to pay tribute to the workers of Baldia Factory, Karachi, who were burnt alive in the fire and for showing our solidarity with their families who are still suffering and facing miserable living conditions because of the man made disaster.

It was a catastrophe that could easily have been prevented if the existing labour laws were more humane or were atleast properly implemented in Pakistan.

Don’t You Ever Forget It…

My Tears, my Screams
My Burning, my Crying
My Shouting with Pain…
My Helpless Dying…
Don’t You Ever Forget It…

Just because I am a poor Worker...
Remember that I Am also Human….

My Body feels pain the same way as does yours…
We will never ever Burn and Die like This….

Despotic is the rule, unjust is the law…
Just because I am a poor Worker...
Remember that I Am also Human….

The Hell that you are so afraid of…
I have already gone through its experience…
Look how my dreams burnt in the flames…
And my Body smouldered and melted…

After this catastrophe, you are still quiet…
Just because I am a poor Worker...
Remember that I Am also Human….

My meal was simple food…
My clothes were inexpensive…
I used to do hard labour…
Through which I earned my family’s living…

My death was an accident…
Just because I am a poor Worker...
Remember that I Am also Human….
My Body feels pain the same way as does yours…

Listen everyone, we are the Workers…
This whole world is because of us…
You must know now, we are the workers…

Remember that I Am also Human….
Whatever you have, to eat, to wear, to use, to live in…
We, the Workers, have made it all….
We have made this world run….
Industry, agriculture, progress, riches, are all because of us….
We run the factories and the institutions…
We will never let this happen again….
Now we will never ever burn and die like this…

My Body feels pain the same way as does yours…
We will never ever Burn and Die like This….
Don’t You Ever Forget It…
See  & Listen…Video
RISEFORPAKISTAN

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20130208

* Denied closure, families of Baldia factory fire victims agree to mass burial:

20130208 TRIBUNE missingpeople
The family of Akmal, one of the victims of the Baldia factory fire, have been struggling to make ends meet since the incident. PHOTO: FILE

Tired of waiting for the remains of their loved ones to be identified, families of this subset of Baldia fire victims have agreed to the government’s proposal to hold a mass burial for charred corpses that are lying at Edhi morgue.

“I have been waiting to get my son’s body for months, and now they tell me that I won’t be able to get it,” said Muhammad Rauf, whose 18-year-old son, Muhammad Haris, was among the victims.

On Wednesday, Sindh Health Minister Sagheer Ahmed had announced that a mass burial of the 17 charred bodies that are lying at the Edhi morgue would be held on Sunday. The minister’s statement was lambasted by trade unionists during a press conference on Thursday.

The unionists, as well as activists, of various human rights organisations demanded that the independent commission formed by the Sindh High Court, headed by former Supreme Court judge Rehmat Hussain Jaffery, should be made responsible for disbursing all compensation among the victims’ families.  read more.
tribune

* Move for mass burial of fire victims slammed:

Labour leaders and civil society representatives demanded on Thursday that compensation be immediately paid to the heirs of all Baldia factory fire victims including the ones whose DNA results were awaited.

Speaking at the press conference, organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) at the press club on Thursday, they demanded that the payments be made through a commission set up by the Sindh High Court and headed by retired Supreme Court judge Rehmat Hussain Jaffery.

Karamat Ali of Piler, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation and trade union leaders Noor Mohammad, Nawab Ali and Rehana Yasmeen criticised Sindh Health Minister Sagheer Ahmad over his reported statement that the bodies being kept in the Edhi morgue would be buried together. They questioned the move for mass burial of the bodies through the district administration. They asked the government to decide about the burial of the bodies in consultation with the Sindh High Court and the commission it constituted. read more.
dawn

* Trade unionists demand compensation to Baldia factory victims:

Trade unions leaders have demanded of the government to provide compensation to all the families of the Baldia factory fire victims, including those who waiting for DNA reports through the commission headed by retired judge of Supreme Court Justice (R) Rahmat Hussain Jafery, set up by the Sindh High Court.

Addressing a joint press conference at Karachi Press Club on Thursday afternoon the Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Karamat Ali, Nasir Mansoor of National Trade Union Federation and others criticised the statement by Sindh Health Minister that the remaining bodies would be collectively buried soon.

Sindh Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmad who, at a meeting with relatives of the deceased on Wednesday, said that the bodies remaining in the Edhi morgue would be buried collectively. They said after such a long wait period and despite the conducting of the DNA testing 3 times, the bodies have still not been able to be identified, which proves that in this country there is no effective DNA testing system. This is a grave matter.
read more. & read more.
daily times PK  thenation

* Pakistani unions demand justice for textile workers:

Outraged by the news that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf called for murder charges to be dropped against the brothers who own a Karachi garment factory where 259 workers were killed, unions in Pakistan protested on 30 January 2013.

The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), an IndustriALL affiliate, and other labour rights organizations have filed petitions against the owners of Ali Enterprises, the garment factory in Karachi where almost 300 workers were killed in a devastating fire on 12 September 2012. (http://www.industriall-union.org/horror-in-pakistan-after-300-workers-die) As it is a case of loss of life, the State initiates the legal actions, NTUF and others have filed petitions, which are being heard by the Sindh High Court.

Mr. Ashraf intervened in the factory fire case on 29 December in an address to Karachi business leaders where he recommended the murder charges be withdrawn against the owners, brothers Arshad and Shahid Bhaila, who have been in jail since September and face trial. Two weeks after the Prime Minster’s comments, a senior police official applied with the court to have the charge dropped. read more.
INDUSRIall

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20130209

* The proletariat in peril:

When a fire started at the Ali Enterprises factory in Baldia Town, Karachi on September 11, 2012, the factory’s only door (and way out) was locked, presumably to keep the over 800 workers from stealing garments.

This fire eventually led to the deaths of about 300 workers. It is safe to assume that if the factory had an active labour union, the door would not have been locked and the workers would not have been trapped inside.
When the prime minister issued directions to drop murder charges against the factory owners of the burnt down factory a couple of weeks ago, an active labour federation in the country would have called a nationwide strike. None was seen. The failure of labour to appear as a bargaining agent in one of the worst industrial fires in Pakistan’s history requires at least a moment of sombre reflection.

Collective bargaining is a fundamental right for labour – however the constitution of Pakistan does not admit it and our statute books do not protect it. The result is that active labour unions are the most repressed institution in the country.
On the other hand, owners of the means of production and distributors are free to create their associations as bargaining tools.
These associations have come into the public eye by demonstrating their ability to shut segments of the economy, a task earlier thought to be reserved for labour. At various moments in the last two years, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma), the All Pakistan CNG Association and the Pakistan Pharma Manufacturers Associations have shut shop. read more.
thenewspk

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20130210

* In remembrance: Country’s worst industrial disaster comes alive through art:

In a city where tragedy strikes nearly every day, the Baldia factory fire that killed over 250 people remains etched in every resident’s memory.

To show just how tragic the industrial disaster was, a bunch of students decided to immortalise the tragedy through art. On Friday evening, the exhibition ‘Awaaz’ opened at the Arts Council, where people saw the imaginations of around 83 artists on sculptures, portraits, video and sound installations.

As soon as you enter the hall, you will see Seher Naveed’s ‘Emergency Exist’, a red and black light box built digitally and illuminated by three tube lights. Explaining the concept behind it, Naveed, who teaches at the Indus Valley School (IVS) of art and architecture, said that her work shows symbols of a person as depicted on emergency signs. “The direction signs are missing because I wanted to show how the factory workers must have felt in a chaotic situation without any exit.”

Adeela Suleman, the organiser and an IVS faculty member, said that the purpose of the exhibition was to show how artists are sensitive to tragedies that take place around us. “We will keep our Awaaz alive until justice is served to the affected families. We won’t let anyone forget what happened to all those people.”
read more.
tribune

* Artists pay tribute to Baldia fire victims:

Last year on Sept 11 Pakistan witnessed the most horrific industrial accident in its history when a textile factory in Karachi’s Baldia town area caught fire.

It took 259 innocent lives and many of the survivors received injuries. To pay tribute to the fire victims, an exhibition titled Awaz opened at the Arts Council Karachi on Friday.

More than 60 artists are taking part in the display and all of them have shown the kind of sensitivity that’s required to paint, draw or portray such a calamitous event.
Some have opted for more direct ways of expressing themselves while others have chosen the roundabout, rather abstract style of putting their ideas across. And all of them have managed to convey their feelings in a pretty convincing manner.

Sara Khan uses the ‘emergency’ warning that one finds in every office building with a difference. Using both the Urdu and English languages she makes it clear that when such a tragedy happens, those who belong to the underprivileged segment of society are often left to their own devices. The words on her digital print artwork read, “In case of emergency, help yourself.” read more.
dawn

* Awaaz: The voice of Baldia fire:

20130210 DAWN jeans1

Burnt jeans lie on a stand next to a table piled with matchboxes. A photo collage of smiling faces and a timeline of major infernos that have taken place in Pakistan in blaring red complete the scene in the hall, recreated to recall the day a factory fire in Karachi’s Baldia Town claimed the lives of over 250 people.

A blood-splattered candle wax figure, depicting the last moments of a helpless victim is perhaps the most striking pieces on display, enough to make the visitors stop in their tracks.

In the center of the room, a pile of paper planes made out of newspaper clippings on the incident falls over itself, perhaps symbolic of how the nation now deals with the ever-increasing disasters.

The tragedy with Karachi, in particular, is that whatever good, bad or ugly happens here is forgotten almost immediately. To prevent the Baldia fire from becoming ‘just another incident’ a consortium of more than 60 artistes from various areas have set up an exhibition called ‘Awaaz’ at the Arts Council. read & see more.
dawn

* After the inferno:

Sparks continue to ignite from the Baldia factory fire in Karachi that killed nearly 300 labourers in September last year.

The families of the victims have since then been seeking justice, fighting apparent attempts to let the owners off the hook and trying to recover bodies charred beyond recognition.
At a press conference on Thursday, the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), the National Trade Union Federation and other unions questioned an announcement by the Sindh health minister that some 17 still unidentified bodies would, in all likelihood, be buried together.

The labour leaders asked what the purpose of the sophisticated and expensive DNA testing had been if no conclusions could be reached from it. They also sought a decision on the burials and compensation from the judicial commission set up by the Sindh High Court.
While the families of 210 labourers killed in the worst blaze in our industrial history have received compensation, 22 other families to whom bodies were recently handed over are still to receive the amount, while there is still the matter of the unidentified bodies to be solved. Labour leaders and activists also say it is still impossible to determine precisely how many persons died in the fire. read more.
thenewspk

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20130211

* SHC grants bail to all accused:

All accused in the Baldia factory fire case, including the factory owners, were awarded bail by the Sindh High Court on Monday, reported Express News.

Justice Ghulam Sarwar Korai of SHC ordered the release of all the accused who were earlier arrested in the case. Factory owners Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila will have to submit surety bonds worth Rs1 million, while the other accused will submit bonds worth Rs200,000.

The Bhaila brothers own Ali Enterprises, the garment factory in Karachi that caught fire on September 11 last year and resulted in the deaths of over 250 workers.
read more. & read more.
tribune  thenewspk

* SHC releases Baldia factory owners on bail: Lawyer:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday released Baldia factory owners, Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila, a lawyer representing the men said.

“The court ordered the owners to deposit one million rupees ($10,000) each and the three employees to deposit 200,000 rupees each to get bail,” said lawyer Aamir Raza Naqvi.
The owners of the Ali Enterprises factory in Baldia Town, Karachi, who made ready-to-wear garments for Western stores, were charged in the wake of last September’s blaze. Claiming the lives of more than 250 workers, Baldia fire is one of the worst industrial accidents in Pakistan’s history.

Earlier in January police withdrew charges of premeditated murder in a supplementary charge-sheet filed in court. The police, however, filed a new investigation report charging Bhaila with negligence but not murder, Naqvi said.
read more.
dawn

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20130212

* Baldia factory fire Bail granted to all accused:

Sindh High Court presided over by Justice Ghulam Sarwar Korai, granted bail to all accused including owners of Baldia town Factory that caught fire last year killing over 290 people in Karachi.

The court ordered the release of all the accused who were earlier arrested in the case. Factory owners Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila will have to submit surety bonds worth Rs1 million, while the other accused will submit bonds worth Rs200, 000 each.
Earlier, the death penalty case against Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila of the Ali Enterprises was withdrawn on PM Raja Pervez Ashraf’s  directives, fulfilling his promise he made with office-bearers of Karachi Chamber of Commerce (KCCI). However the Prime Minister had to faced lot of criticism from his own party and coalition members.
It may be recalled that in he factory fire over 290 persons were burnt alive in September last year. to read.
PAKOBSERVER

* Murder charges dropped against Baldia garments factory owners:

Police have moved to drop murder charges against the owners of a garment factory, where 289 workers were killed in a fire last year, counsel for Shahid and Arshad Bhaila said on Monday.

The owners of the Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town, which made ready-to-wear garments for Western stores, were charged in the wake of last September’s blaze, which was one of the worst industrial accidents in the country’s history.

But police have now filed a new investigation report charging Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila with negligence but not murder, lawyer Aamir Raza Naqvi said. Police confirmed the move. A court is expected rule on whether to accept the new charges on Saturday. read more.
thenation

* Baldia factory owners get bail:

20130212 TRIBUNE BaldiafactoryfirePHOTOFILE
A file photo of the garment factory in Baldia Town, Karachi where a fire left more than 250 people dead. PHOTO: FILE

The owners of a garment factory, where over 250 people were killed in Pakistan’s worst industrial fire last year, have been released on bail, and the police have recommended dropping the key charges of murder against them.

The Sindh High Court (SHC) heard on Monday a request seeking the release of the accused men in the Baldia factory fire case – owners and brothers, Shahid Abdul Aziz Bhaila and Arshad Abdul Aziz Bhaila, factory manager Mohammad Mansoor and watchman Arshad Mehmood.

Arshad and Shahid will be released on bail for one million rupees each and a personal recognisance bond whose amount has to be agreed on by the trial court, the court stated. Mansoor and Mehmood have also been awarded bail for Rs200,000 each. read more.
tribune

* Baldia factory owners out of jail on bail:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday granted bail to two owners of Ali Enterprises, a garment factory in Baldia Town where a massive fire had killed more than 280 labourers in September last year.

Owners Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, the factory manager and other staffers have been charged with murder (Qatal-bisabab), mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage and attempt to murder.

Abdul Aziz Bhaila, a third owner and father of Arshad and Shahid Bhaila, has already been bailed on medical grounds.The incident was the worst industrial disaster in the history of the country, prompting calls for better safety measures at all factories across the country.

Production manager Mansoor Ahmed, Watchman Arshad Mehmood, labour director Zahid Gulzar Sheikh, Managing Director SITE Rasheed Ahmed Solangi, Additional Controller Civil Defence Ghulam Akbar and Electric Inspector Amjad Ali have been named co-accused in the case. read more.
thenewspk

* Seeking redemption: Baldia owners offer groceries in exchange for loyalty:

 On Monday afternoon at a godown in Baldia, Nazia, who lost her husband in the Ali Enterprises inferno, was handed a white envelope of Rs 5,000. The mother of four was told to come back again on the 16th of this month and collect her ration she ‘deserved’. In return, she was told to keep her mouth shut and not to speak ill against the factory owners.

Such pressure tactics being carried by the officials of the gutted factory, Ali Enterprises is likely to increase after the bail of all the men accused in the Baldia fire incident, claim activists.

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) executive director Karamat Ali told The Express Tribune that the owners and managers of Ali Enterprises, the factory in which hundreds of people lost their lives, have been intimidating the witnesses and the workers for a while. The purpose of these threats is to pressurise people into agreeing to drop murder charges against the owners.

“Even from inside the jail, the Bhaila brothers had been giving directions to their men to threaten the people to move back from the case,” said Ali. “Now that they are out of prison, we expect an increase in their dirty activities.”
read more.
tribune

* Improperly framed FIR backfires:

In Pakistan today hardly any perpetrators of crime have been caught or convicted. The criminal negligence of the owners and authorities alike is highlighted by the horrible incident at Ali Enterprises – the textile factory which was burnt to ashes on September 11, 2012 in Baldia Town. Over 289 people died.

The Sindh police was at its incompetent best while registering an FIR. It charged the owners of the factory with both intentional and unintentional murder. It also charged the owners with burning down their own factory and causing hurt to the head and shoulders of the people. In simpler words, the police registered a case that accused the owners of premeditated and intentional murder of some of its employees whereas other employees were murdered by the owners unintentionally. The police also thought that the owners were crazy enough to burn down their only means of livelihood without any motive.

After weeks of investigation, the police proceeded to file a report in court that maintained the charges against the accused. At this juncture, the prime minister thought that he too should jump into the picture. read more.
tribune

* Owners among four given bail in Baldia factory fire case:

Two factory owners and two of their employees were granted bail on Monday by the Sindh High Court in the case of the Baldia Town factory fire, said to be the country’s worst industrial disaster that killed nearly 259 workers.

A single bench headed by Justice Ghulam Sarwar Korai had on Jan 28 reserved the order on the bail applications of the accused, including Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, after hearing arguments of the applicants’ counsel.

The two owners of the ill-fated Ali Enterprises, represented by Advocate Amir Raza Naqvi, were arrested in the case on Oct 6 when the trial court had rejected their pre-arrest bail pleas. However, their elderly father, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, also an accused in the case, was granted bail on health grounds.

The factory’s production manager, Mansoor Ahmed, was represented by Advocate Khawaja Shamsul Islam, and Advocate Muhammad Tamaz Khan appeared on behalf of the accused watchman of the factory, Arshad Mehmood. read more.
dawn

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20130213

* Incomplete preparations: Baldia fire victims’ burial delayed:

The mass burial of the remaining unidentified bodies of the Baldia factory fire has been delayed, a spokesperson for the Edhi Foundation Anwar Kazmi told The Express Tribune.

Last week, the provincial health minister, Dr Sagheer Ahmed, had announced that the remaining 17 unidentified bodies of the Baldia fire would be buried on Sunday. However, the officials failed to make any arrangements for the funeral which led to the delay.
“The authorities didn’t get back to me and the burial has been delayed,” he said. “I’m waiting for the clearance.” More than 250 people had died in the Baldia inferno out of which 17 unidentified bodies had been lying at the Edhi morgue since last September. to read.
tribune

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20130214

* A mass burial for the factory fire’s remaining victims:

Riaz Ahmad, 32, was a machine operator at Ali Enterprises, a garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.

Ali Enterprises was major supplier of German discount clothing retailer Kik for ready-to-wear garments.
Riaz used to work the morning shift. On September 11, 2012 he left his house at 8:30 in the morning and promised his wife to come back by 4:30 in the afternoon.

It was raining heavily that day and he just overstayed at the factory. He made a last call to his wife at 5:45 p.m.
“He was coughing and told me that the factory was on fire. ‘There is no way to get out. If I don’t return, take good care of my children.’ This was last time I heard his voice,” said Riaz’s 30-year-old wife, Nazia Perveen.

Riaz Ahmad was among the 252 victims (the official estimate) who died in the Ali Enterprises factory fire on September 11, 2012, one of Pakistan’s worst industrial disasters in history.
However, Riaz’s family is among those 24 that haven’t yet received the corpses of their loved ones.
So far, 17 bodies are still placed at the Edhi morgue in Karachi, and despite conducting the DNA test three times, those bodies have not been identified yet.
read more.
EQUALTIMES

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20130215

* Families urge court to allow mass burial of 21 unidentified bodies:

 As the police drop key murder charges against the owners of the Baldia factory and modern technology fails to determine the identity of 21 victims even though five months have passed, their relatives have finally agreed on a mass burial.

The families of 21 labourers whose bodies were charred beyond recognition in the country’s worst industrial fire have sought an order from the court to carry out the last rites of their loved ones.
The families presented a request for permission for mass burial to the Sindh High Court. The court is already hearing identical petitions for a judicial inquiry into the tragic incident.

According to the official record, 259 workers were burnt alive when the ISO-certified Ali Enterprises in Baldia town caught fire on September 11, 2012. Nearly 21 bodies remain unidentified as the DNA tests have failed. The court has given repeated orders for the authorities to expedite the process. read more.
tribune

* SHC says no to mass burial:

Declining a plea to allow mass burial of the unidentified victims of the Baldia factory fire, the Sindh High Court has summoned the project director of the National Forensic Science Agency to appear personally and explain delays in identifying the bodies on February 20.

“We find it hard to express ourselves,” remarked Justice Maqbool Baqir, who headed the bench while hearing a petition seeking a judicial probe into the worst industrial disaster in which at least 259 workers were killed on September 11, 2012.
The relatives of 21 workers, who are believed to have been killed in fire but whose charred bodies remain unidentified, had gone to court.

Khurram Ahmed, representing one of the bereaved families, requested the judges to direct the authorities to hand over the unidentified bodies to the families for a “collective burial”.
The two judges declined the request. “We have been told that 17 bodies of the victims have still not been identified.”
“We, therefore, find it difficult to order handing over the bodies as the legal heirs of other victims may not agree to such an order,” they added.  read more.
tribune

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20130216

* SHC seeks explanation from forensic expert, police:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday ordered the director of the National Forensic Science Agency (NFSA) and a police official to appear before the court with progress reports on their efforts to identify the bodies of 21 Baldia factory fire victims.

The court was hearing the applications of 21 bereaved family members of the Baldia factory fire victims, who sought last rituals and a collective burial for their loved ones who lost their lives in the inferno on September 11 last year.
The bodies of the 21 workers of the ill-fated factory, Ali Enterprises, could not be identified despite the lapse of six months and repeated directives of the SHC that ordered the police to conduct DNA tests of the unidentified bodies. read more.
thenewspk

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20130217

* Court asked to decide on charges:

To guard against interference in the ongoing trial of the country’s worst industrial disaster, the Sindh High Court has told the concerned trial court to decide on the police’s report for dropping key murder charges against the Baldia garment factory owners was strictly in accordance with the law.

This order came in response to petitions by several workers and human rights groups, which accused Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of interfering in the trial.
The organisations had gone to the court against PM Ashraf and the police, for their alleged attempts to save the owners of the Ali Enterprises.  to read.
tribune

* Hearing of bail pleas put off till 23rd:

A sessions court on Saturday sought exact record of the charges against the Baldia factory fire case accused and adjourned the hearing of their bail applications till February 23.

Additional District and Sessions Judge (West) Abdullah Channa is hearing the bail pleas of five accused Amjad Ali, Fazal Ahmed, Abdur Rasheed Solangi, Zahid and Ghulam Akbar.

When the hearing of Baldia factory fire case resumed on Saturday, the court noted that the copies of charges were not placed on the record and issued directives to fulfill the legalities of the matter and present exact record of the charges against the accused.

In their bail applications, the under detention accused have taken the plea that they had no involvement in the case and false allegations were foisted on them.
read more.
thenewspk

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20130221

* Last rites: Court allows Baldia fire bodies to be buried:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday finally allowed the burial of 18 unidentified bodies of the Baldia factory fire victims, but ordered the national forensic science laboratory’s project director to complete DNA matching process within 20 days.

Nearly 259 workers were burnt in the country’s worst industrial disaster, when a huge fire reduced the Ali Enterprises to ashes on September 11, 2012. Many bodies were charred beyond recognition.
As the repeated DNA tests failed to determine the identities of all the victims, the bereaved families went to court seeking permission for mass burial.

“Six months have passed, but the officials have failed to establish the identities of our loved ones despite the fact that DNA samples have been obtained at least thrice,” they told the judges on Wednesday. read more.
tribune

* SHC orders burial of 17 unidentifiable Baldia fire victims:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday ordered authorities to make arrangements for burials of 17 unidentifiable victims of Baldia Town factory fire, awaiting DNA test in the morgue of Edhi center near Sohrab Goth.

Justice Maqbool Baqir heard the Baldia factory fire case. The court was told that it could take more time to complete the process of identification of 17 bodies.
On this, the court ordered that all the bodies should be buried in a sequence now.  Heirs of these bodies say that they were made to go from one place to another to identify their loved ones.
The order, however, would pave the way for provision of compensation to the families of victims.  read more.
thenation

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20130224

* 18 unidentified bodies to be buried:

The bodies of 18 unidentified people, who died during a deadly fire at a factory in Baldia Town area of Karachi, last year, would be buried today (Sunday).

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on February 20, 2013 ordered authorities to make arrangements for burials of 18 unidentifiable victims of Baldia Town factory fire, awaiting DNA test in the morgue of Edhi center near Sohrab Goth.
According to Deputy Commissioner of the city, the bodies would be buried at Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) graveyard in the city.

He further said that all arrangements have been made and the burial would definitely take place on scheduled time.
Garment factories in Karachi caught fire on 11 September 2012. The fires occurred in a textile factory in the western part of Karachi. The fires are considered to be the most deadly and worst industrial factory fires in Pakistan’s history, killing 315 people and seriously injuring more than 250 others.
to read. & to read. & to read. & read more.
PAKOBSERVER  pakTODAY thenewspk 

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20130225

* Five months on, 17 unidentified workers laid to rest:

Five months after an inferno engulfed the garment factory in Baldia, the remains of 17 unidentified workers were buried in KMC Graveyard amid tears and hopes that such an incident won’t happen again.

A deadly fire swept through the factory in September last year, killing over 258 employees in one of the world’s deadliest industrial disasters. No one knows for sure how the fire started and why so many people were trapped inside.
On Sunday, hundreds of people, including the owners of Ali Enterprises, which ran the factory, attended the funeral at Akhbar Shaheed Ground in Baldia Town.

The mass burial took place with the permission of the victims’ families, in compliance with the orders of the Sindh High Court. All the bodies and remains were charred beyond recognition. Several attempts to match DNA samples of the victims with that of family members failed.
“The saddest part is all these bodies have remained unclaimed,” said Nasir Mansoor, a social activist who is working closely with the families.
read more. & read more.
tribune  dawn

* Hoping for closure, families bury unidentified dead:

20130225 THENEWS

Five months after the Baldia factory blaze, the bodies of 17 unidentified victims were buried at the KMC graveyard near the Hub River Road on Sunday.

According to court orders, government officials had allotted a serial number to every body at the Edhi morgue so that when the DNA reports arrived, they could be identified. But the DNA reports never arrived.
“Seventeen coffins contain bodies. And one only body parts,” said Anwar Kazmi of the Edhi Foundation as volunteers put the sealed coffins in ambulances.

The coffins were taken to a ground in Baldia Town for the funeral rites and then to the government graveyard for burial.
The victims’ graves do not have tombstones with their names, but the serial numbers they were allotted.
The burial could have been carried out months ago if only the government had paid a little attention to the crisis, said Abdul Sattar Edhi, the founder of the Edhi Foundation.
read more. & read more.
thenewspk

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20130228

* No bodies, no compensation for heirs:

Several months have passed since the fire erupted at the garment factory in Baldia Town, but dozens of families are still waiting for the victims’ bodies as well as for the compensation amounting to Rs900,000 for each victim’s family.

There are still 23 legal heirs of the victims who have not been compensated because their DNA samples did not match the bodies that were recently buried.
Nazia Parveen is one such legal heir. She is the widow of Riaz Ahmed and the sister of Rafaqat Ali. Ahmed and Ali both lost their lives in the fire at Ali Enterprises, the garment factory.

However, despite providing DNA samples thrice, she was not handed over her husband’s body and is yet to be compensated as well.
Parveen, along with other heirs of the victims, had recently staged a demonstration in front of the Sindh Assembly to demand the victims’ bodies and compensation.
read more.
thenewspk

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20130306

* Deadline extended: Baldia applications will be received till March 9:

The compensation commission has extended the last date by which relatives of Baldia factory fire victims can file for claims till March 9.

The commission, which had been formed by Sindh High Court on January 29 to distribute the money pledged by the government and a foreign firm among the families of the victims, had initially set March 5 as the deadline for submission of compensation claims.

“The commission has decided to extend the deadline because they have only received 80 applications so far,” explained an official from the organisation.

Around 259 people passed away in the fire which reduced Ali Enterprises to ashes on September 11, 2012. The fire was termed the worst industrial incident in the history of the country and several international suppliers of the company pledged support for the families and survivors. The unidentified victims were recently buried.
to read.
The Express Tribune

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20130313

* Baldia factory fire case: SHC gives one week to identify charred bodies:

The Sindh High Court has yet again ordered the National Forensic Science Agency and others concerned to submit a report regarding the identities of the seventeen workers of the Baldia garments factory, whose bodies were charred beyond recognition in the fire.

Nearly 259 workers were burnt in the country’s worst industrial disaster, when a huge fire reduced the Ali Enterprises to ashes on September 11, 2012. As the repeated DNA tests failed to determine the identities of the victims, the bereaved families had gone to court seeking permission for mass burial.

The judges on February 20 allowed the bereaved families to perform last rites and bury the seventeen unidentified bodies to end the mental torture and agony the families had been going through for the past six months.

Meanwhile, the laboratory’s project director was directed to expedite DNA matching process by drawing fresh samples and submit report by March 11. On Tuesday, the advocate general Abdul Fattah Malik said that while the unidentified bodies were buried following permission granted by the court, none of the relatives of the victims had come forward to pursue DNA testing, thus their identification has yet to be determined.  read more.
The Express Tribune

* SHC wants DNA test reports in seven days:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed police and the National Forensic Science Agency on Tuesday to submit DNA test reports of 21 unidentified victims of a factory fire within a week.

The directive came at a hearing of identical petitions seeking a judicial inquiry into the Category 3 blaze that killed 289 workers at the garments factory, Ali Enterprises, in Baldia Town on September 11 last year.

In compliance with an injunction, the unidentified victims, who had been burnt beyond recognition in the incident, were buried last month and each grave was allotted a number so as to identify the bodies with the help of DNA tests.  read more.
thenews.com.pk
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20130315

* SHC orders inspection of Baldia garment factory:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday directed the Sindh Building Control Authority and the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate to carry out inspection of the ill-fated Baldia factory so as to ascertain whether it was constructed under the approved building plan or not.

The court observed that the report should reveal the deviation from the relevant laws, particularly the rules and the regulations, and the services of architects and engineers could be obtained in this regard.

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and others submitted in the petition that more than 280 people were killed in the fire incident at Ali Enterprises on September 11 last year and the management of Ali Enterprises, including the factory owners, have been booked under murder, mischief by fire and other related charges by the Baldia Town police.  read more.
thenews.com.pk

* Legal action on fire in textile factory in Karachi, Pakistan:

ECCHR involved in Pakistani court proceedings

During a visit to Pakistan by staff members from ECCHR and medico international, individuals affected by the factory fire in September 2012 together with their trade union representatives asked ECCHR to become directly involved in legal proceedings relating to the incident in Pakistan. ECCHR will now make an application through a local lawyer to be admitted to the proceedings.

The Ali Enterprise textile factory in the industrial district of Baldia Town in Karachi burned to the ground on 11 September 2012. Bars on the windows as well as obstructed and locked emergency exits meant that factory workers were unable to escape the blaze in time.
Over 280 employees lost their lives and hundreds were injured. The disaster represents the most devastating fire to occur to date at a Pakistani factory. At least 70% of the textiles produced at the factory were sold to German discount store KIK, according to the retailer’s own information. Just a few weeks before the fire, Italian company RINA had issued the factory with an SA 8000 certificate, which is supposed to act as a guarantee of safety and other workplace standards.

While KIK has come to a preliminary agreement with local Pakistani organizations on the payment of damages, the Italian certification firm RINA has to date not demonstrated any interest in participating in a compensation scheme. The distribution of the compensatory funds offered by KIK is being overseen by an independent commission appointed by the High Court of Sindh.  read more.
ECCHR! EUROPEAN CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS

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20130320

* LHC constitutes commission to address fire safety:

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of Lahore High Court has constituted a 20-member fire safety commission to address and identify fire safety issues in the city of Lahore, with special emphasis on industrial sites and high-rise buildings.

The commission will review existing laws, rules, regulations and policies relating to fire safety in buildings. Besides screening and surveying of high-rise buildings, it will review urban planning policies and practices for building safety.
(…)
The commission was constituted while hearing a petition moved by Muhammad Shoaib Saleem through his counsel, Syed Aslam Rizvi, who submitted that there were not enough arrangements of fire fighting and people lack training.
He said that in September 2012, fire in a shoe factory at Bund road left at least 25 labourers dead owing to negligence of the owners and the negligence of the government machinery which deliberately did not ensure fire safety measures at the building. The counsel submitted that in many fire incidents, people lost their lives and the state machinery failed to take safety steps during the construction of the buildings.

He requested that the people responsible for the shoe factory fire should be penalised and the concerned authorities should be directed to take necessary steps so that such an incident does not recur. He also requested that the government should be direted to take measures to protect the lives and properties during the fire incidents.  read more.
Daily Times

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20130327

* Piler deposits $750,000 in account of SHC nazir:

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) on Tuesday deposited $750,000 in the account of the Sindh High Court nazir on a directive of the SHC commission headed by retired Justice Rahmat Hussain Jafery for distribution among families of the victims of Ali Enterprises.

Piler received the amount from the German garments buyer, KiK Textilien, after it had signed an agreement with the buyer to compensate in cash those affected families who have still not received any compensation from the government or any other source.

Piler through an application had requested the SHC to form a commission for the payment of compensation to the affected families. Subsequently, the commission was constituted and it started functioning by late February. The commission invited applications through newspaper advertisements and currently it is finalising the list of the beneficiaries.  read more.
dawn

* Piler deposits $1 million in SHC account for Baldia fire victims:

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) deposited $1million received from the German garments buyer KiK Textilien to the account of the Nazir of the Sindh High Court (SHC), based on the directives of commission headed by Justice (retd) Rahmat Hussain Jafery to distribute among the families of the victims of Ali Enterprises.

Piler had signed an agreement with the German buyer to provide cash for those affected families who were yet to receive any compensation from the government or any other source.

Piler, through an application, requested the SHC to form a commission for the distribution of compensation among the affected families. As a result, the SHC formed the commission, which started functioning by late February. read more.
thenews.com.pk

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20130416

* Pleas for help months after Pakistan fire:

Many families still wait for compensation money promised by government after factory blaze that killed 259.t has been more than six months since 259 people were killed in a garment factory fire in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

The government has promised to prosecute those who are responsible, and pay compensation to victims’ families.
But many families, who survived the country’s worst industrial accident, are still waiting the money from government.
Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab reports from Karachi.  see Video.
aljazeera

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20130503

* Heirs of 23 victims yet to get compensation:

The heirs of some 23 victims of Baldia factory fire tragedy, whose bodies could not be recovered, are still facing difficulties in obtaining their death certificates and receiving the government-announced financial compensation, thus further compounding their socio-economic problems.

The heirs of such victims of Ali Enterprise inferno of September 11 last year narrated their ordeal at a media briefing arranged by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (Piler) and the Labour Education Foundation in connection with the International Labour Day on Wednesday.  read more.
thenews.com.pk

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20130721

* European lawyers fight for Baldia fire compensation:

As the bereaved families of the Baldia factory fire lose hope of getting justice for losing over 250 relatives in the country’s worst industrial disaster, the legal eagles of Italy, France and Spain are eyeing the international certifying body to determine its role in the tragedy.

The legion of lawyers – Stefano Bertone, Marco Bona, Jean-Pierre Bellecave and Carlos Villacorta – who have successfully won compensation for the survivors of at least 40 aviation disasters, plan to sue an Italy-based firm, Rina Services, which had declared that the international standards for workers were enforced at Ali Enterprises.

In August 2012, Rina Services had certified Ali Enterprises and the factory under the SA-8000 standard after an audit, which started on June 22, that year and was completed by July 5. A 10-member team spent the same number of days on the site and issued a certificate on August 20.

Twenty-one days later, a massive fire swept through the double-storey building of the garment factory, killing at least 259 workers in Baldia industrial area on September 11. “We don’t know what ignited the fire…but we understand that it was a cage not a place of work,” claimed Bertone, an Italian lawyer, during a visit to Karachi. “The Baldia factory looked like a cage made with cement and iron.”
read more.
tribune

* ‘Compensation should equal the price of what the workers produced’:

The survivors of the Baldia factory fire and the families of the victims have accepted whatever compensation they have received from the federal and provincial governments, the Bhaila brothers and the $1 million contributed by KIK Texilion, one of the major buyers of the products produced at Ali Enterprises until it was gutted.

A commission constituted by the Sindh High Court on the request of the German KIK Texilion has almost disbursed all of the compensation money among the claimants, confirmed the commission’s registrar. The European lawyers’ groups is, however, not satisfied with the amount of money being offered to the survivors and the victims’ legal heirs. “It is not fair that they pay the wrongs with peanuts,” said Marco Bona.

They say that the only purpose of taking Rina to the Italian courts is get the victims’ families a handsome amount in compensation, which is at least in proportion to the value of the products produced by the deceased workers in the European market.
read more.
tribune
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20130907

* Call to make public findings of Baldia fire probe:

A panel of speakers representing the Pakistan Institute of Labour Union and Research and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has demanded that the inquiry report of the Baldia factory fire be made public.

Speaking at the Karachi Press Club on Friday, Asad Iqbal Butt of the HRCP said that the people held responsible in the inquiry report compiled by retired Justice Zahid Kurban Alavi be prosecuted and punished.

“The report was handed over to the chief minister of Sindh a long time ago. We demand and urge the government of Sindh to stop appeasing those responsible for the disaster,” said Mr Butt while reading out from a paper.

The Baldia factory fire is a worst such incident in the history of Pakistan that killed more than 250 people. For months after the incident families kept standing outside the Edhi morgue in Sohrab Goth to identify their family members.

Speaking at the press conference, deputy general secretary of National Trade Union Federation Nasir Mansoor said that even a year after the incident factories in and around SITE still operated unchecked.
read more.
DAWNnew

*  Unionists demands: ‘Govt should reveal report on Baldia factory fire’:

The government should reveal the report of Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alavi’s commission on the Baldia factory fire, demanded trade unionists and members of the civil society on Friday.

Speaking at a press conference at Karachi Press Club, the speakers stressed the need provide justice to the factory workers by ensuring their health and safety at industrial and commercial establishments. They demanded penal action against  of those who were held responsible for the incident by the judicial commission in its report.

Pakistan Workers Confederation general secretary Noor Muhammad said that the labour movement of Karachi has chalked out a number of programmes to observe the first anniversary of the fire incident that occurred last year, when nearly 256 workers had lost lives and 55 were injured.

“To mark the anniversary, on the evening of September 10, a memorial vigil would be held, where the trade unionists and civil society activists, members of the victims’ families would gather at the site of the factory and observe one-minute silence,” he said.
to read.

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20130908

* Call for making Justice Alavi’s report public:

Trade union leaders and civil society activists on Friday demanded of the government to make public the report of a judicial commission on a Baldia garments factory fire that killed over 250 people on September 11 last year.

The also urged the government to provide justice to the victims of the deadly blaze that destroyed the factory, Ali Enterprises, Baldia Town, and take those responsible to task.

Speaking at a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club, the leaders of trade unions and human rights organisations deplored that even after the passage of one year, the accused, including the factory owners and officials of the labour department and other relevant government departments, were free.
read more.
thenewspk
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20130910

* Baldia factory fire: ‘Buyers, inspectors equally responsible for catastrophe’:

20130910 TRIBUNE
RINA, the firm that had issued a safety certificate to Ali Enterprises, have also issued the certificates to a hundred other factories. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Partly blaming the factory owners and government officials for last year’s Baldia factory fire incident which claimed more than 250 lives, the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) has held international buyers, auditors, as well as, the safety inspection firms responsible for the catastrophe.

“Merely 10 days before the fire incident, RINA, an international firm, had issued a safety certificate to the factory, and they are as much to blame for the incident as the others,” said Nasir Mansoor, the central deputy general secretary of the NTUF. “What is more surprising is that they have also issued safety certificates to a hundred other factories in the city. We demand that these factories’ names be made public.”

Mansoor also lashed out at the international buyers who ignored the pathetic working conditions of the labourers, calling them murderers. “We are in quite a dilemma here. If we raise our voice for these workers, the contracts of the international companies might be cancelled and these labourers will end up unemployed,” he said.

To mark the first anniversary of the Baldia incident falling on September 11, the trade unionists gathered on Monday at the Karachi Press Club to release their own findings of the country’s worst industrial incident.Mansoor said that the electric gate of the factory had resulted in many of the casualties as people were not able to evacuate the premises. “The windows of the factory had been reinforced with iron grills and there was no escape for the workers. There were no exit points!”
read more.

* ‘Owners told workers to salvage goods’:

New report by labour activists claims the factory’s main gate and emergency gates were locked on the instructions of factory management

Two days before the anniversary of the tragic Baldia factory fire, a research report has put the blame of the enormous death toll on the owners, claiming that they had ordered the staff to salvage goods instead of allowing them to escape.

On September 11 last year, at least 257 workers were burnt alive when the Ali Enterprises garment factory caught fire.On Monday, the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) made its report public on the country’s worst-ever industrial disaster at the Karachi Press Club. Jalil Shah and Zehra Akbar Khan among other workers’ representatives were also present as the NTUF deputy general secretary shared the study with the media.

The owners, Nasir Mansoor said, thought it was a minor fire incident and ordered the staff to first salvage the material, machinery and finished products.The workers, who were interviewed for the study, confirmed that the emergency gates and the main electric gate were locked on the instructions of the factory management. All windows were already blocked permanently with iron grilles to stop the theft of merchandise.

More than 500 workers, including women and children, were inside the premises when the fire broke out at around 6pm on the first floor where all the supplies, including inflammable chemicals and materials, were stored.

The factory employed approximately 2,000 workers in different shifts in its 16 sections. Many workers, who were off-duty on the fateful day, were also inside the factory as it was the pay day. The majority of the victims were aged between 15 and 35 years.
read more.
thenewspk

* One year after Baldia fire:

20130910 TRIBUNE BaldiafactoryfirePHOTOFILE

Over the last year, accidents in garment factories in Pakistan and Bangladesh have exposed not only the hazardous conditions in which garment industry workers toil, but also the human price of cheap clothes sold in Western capitals.

The list begins with the fatal accident at Ali Enterprises, situated in Karachi’s Baldia Town. On Sept 11 last year, a fire swept through the factory, killing over 250 workers. In November 2012 in Bangladesh, a fire at Tazreen Fashion killed over 100 people.

In April this year, also in Bangladesh, more than 1,000 workers perished when Rana Plaza, housing several garment factories, collapsed. This is reckoned as the worst industrial accident since 1984’s Bhopal tragedy in India.

Together, these headline-grabbing tragedies highlight the wretched, slave-like conditions in which employees are forced to work to feed the insatiable demand for global clothing brands.

From the rubble of the Baldia factory were found, among others, labels of German clothes retailer KiK, which has admitted it was a major bulk buyer of Ali Enterprises’ products since 2007. In Bangladesh, given its large garment industry, labels of various major high street retailers were found.

These tragedies also highlight a number of emerging trends in the growing global garments industry in relation to working conditions, workplace safety, labour rights and transparency of supply chains.
read more.
DAWNnew

* Baldia factory fire tragedy: NTUF demands compensation for affected workers as per international standards:

20130909 DAILYMESSENGER5.Baldia-factory-fire-tragedy

National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) here Monday issued a report on tragic Ali Enterprises garment factory fire in Karachi.

The report titled Death Chamber: A tragedy on 9/11, 2012 in Pakistan written by Zehra Khan was launched at the Karachi Press Club (KCP).
The report says September 11, 2012 was one of the darkest days in the history of labor movement in Pakistan and it was also the deadliest disaster not only in textile sector but all industrial sector of the world.
On the day fire was broke out in Ali Enterprises, a garment factory in SITE area, Karachi in which 257 workers died within small spine of time. The main cause of these deaths was unprotected working environment. Many of the stranded workers died of suffocation as they were trapped in a factory with no emergency exits available.

The report said it was not the first incident of its kind but every day such workplace mishaps are reported albeit on smaller scale, which mostly go unnoticed. There are factories and commercial establishments, spread all over the country, having same horrible working conditions, posing potential threats to the lives of about 60million Pakistani workers.
read more.
DAILYMESSENGER

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20130911

* Victim families’ hope for justice fading away:

“I stopped inquiring about the investigation into the Baldia factory fire the day the owners were given bail on court orders,” says Sharifa Memon who lost her 23-year-old son, Shahbaz Memon, in the blaze exactly a year ago.

Many people say that if the authorities had shown a bit of “persistence” in saving the lives of people trapped inside, it would have made a huge difference.
“At least I would have been satisfied today to know that someone was as concerned as I was to save my family,” adds Ms Memon.

Baldia factory fire, considered to be the country’s worst industrial incident, killed more than 250 people and injured many others on Sept 11, 2012.

Families were understandably distraught to find their loved ones trapped inside the blazing factory for hours on end, while firefighters wrestled with hosepipes to douse the blaze. Ali Enterprise, the garment factory in Baldia Town, SITE, stands as a stark reminder of the nightmarish incident. For many it is a bitter reminder of how inadequacy is considered a norm, worth more than saving a life.
read more.
DAWNnew

* Minor heirs to receive compensation with added profit:

20130911 TRIBUNE Baldia
The sewing floor of the garment factory was charred in the fire that took the lives of over 250 workers. Even though there is a fire extinguisher, the factory lacked proper fire exits. PHOTO: FILE

Several of the heirs of the Baldia fire victims are minors so the compensation they deserve will lie with the high court until they turn 18 years old.

An official of Sindh High Court will invest the money in profit schemes so when the children turn 18, they will receive their original compensation plus the profits it would have earned by then, according to an official of the commission formed by the high court in January this year. This commission worked under the supervision of Justice (retd) Rehmat Hussain Jaffery to disburse the money donated by the owners of Ali Enterprises, its German-based buyer KIK-Textilien and a local philanthropist.

“Many cheques have been deposited with the SHC Nazir because the legal heirs of many victims are minor,” the official told The Express Tribune, adding that the money will be disbursed when they come of age. “Till then the court’s Nazir would invest this money in profit schemes, and would return the increased amount with profit.”
read more.

* Families of the Baldia fire victims move on with their lives but with a heavy heart:

Abdul Ghani aka Babar felt very alone in the world after his wife was burnt to death in the Baldia factory fire on September 11 last year, where more than 250 factory workers died.

Nasreen, his wife, left behind their daughters – six-month-old Zainab and a four-year-old Muqaddas – and they are the reason why the 33-year-old single parent let go of his depression and decided to live for them.

“For three months I did not sleep,” Babar admitted. “Every day I prayed to God and wished for death. I wanted to die.” One day, he realised, however, that there was no one else to take care of his daughters. “I realised that I could not leave them to die.” For the little ones, Babar became a mother, fought for his wife’s compensation money and battled with those who were greedily eyeing the money.
read more.

* Candlelight vigil marks first anniversary of factory fire:

Emotions ran high as a large number of people held a candlelight vigil outside the gutted Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia Town to mark the first anniversary of the deadly blaze.

Labour leaders, families of the deceased workers, trade union members and civil society activists took part in a candlelight vigil on Tuesday to commemorate the victims of the worst-ever industrial disaster of the country.
Touching scenes were witnessed as the victims’ families, including women, children and relatives, remembered their loved ones.

Carrying banners and placards, the people shouted slogans demanding bringing the culprits to justice. They also called for providing health and safety facilities at all workplaces and initiation of factory inspections of all the factories in Pakistan.
A large number of workers of the nearby factories also took part in the candlelight vigil and paid tribute to the victims.
A one-minute moment of silence was also observed on the occasion.

CCC expresses solidarity
An international labour rights organisation has expressed solidarity with the families of the victims of the tragic Baldia factory fire on the first anniversary of the deadly blaze, which left at least 257 people dead.
Since 1989, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) has been dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries.
read more.
thenewspk

* A year on, no consolation for families of the missing dead :

A year on, Shahida Akmal, 33, has still not been able to find her husband. Not only did she lose her beloved spouse, she cannot claim the promised compensation also as she cannot identify his body. Muhammad Akmal, 30, died on September 11 last year in the worst industrial fire of the country, which destroyed the Ali Enterprise garment factory in Baldia Town. Among the dead were 256 others.Akmal’s body was burnt beyond recognition, says Shahida. The government asked for a DNA identification test of which she never got the results.
Be it the lack of diagnostic facilities of the government’s mismanagement, the DNA reports of 25 aggrieved families are still pending. Without the results, they cannot obtain a death certificate, and hence the compensation promised by government and social welfare organisations.
read more.
thenewspk

* Safety rules on paper still pending in action:

The fire at Ali Enterprises in SITE, which caused deaths of more than 250 workers, was a wake-up call for all the departments tasked with looking after the implementation of labour and fire safety laws in factories. It appears, however, that the impact was not enough as factories in the area are still operating in violation of the parameters laid down by the law, The Express Tribune has learnt.

According to an official of the fire department, hundreds of factories in SITE were still operating in worse conditions that Ali Enterprises in terms of fire safety and other emergency measures. “Different types of highly inflammable chemicals are kept together while no visible measures for fire safety are taken in these factories, which could lead to more casualties in case a fire breaks out,” said the official on the condition of anonymity.
He added that experts of the fire department are not authorised to enter the factories without cause. “Most of the factories have no fire exits, ventilation, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, fire alarms, and no concept of training their workers for emergencies. There aren’t even water storages for the fire tenders of the fire brigade to douse fire.”

In his opinion, there should be fire drills every month similar to those conducted by reputed textile companies. “If you can install a factory worth Rs500 million then why can’t you spend Rs500,000 on a good fire safety system which can save the whole structure as well as lives of the employees?”
read more.

* Still awaiting compensation in Pakistan: one year after Ali Enterprises burnt down:

Tomorrow German cost-cutter KiK discusses compensation for the victims of the collapse at Rana Plaza during the meeting in Geneva.

Meanwhile, survivors of the fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan, still await full, long-term and fair compensation. German retailer KiK remains the only known buyer of Ali Enterprises garments.

  • Families of  more then 250 workers killed during fire still awaiting full and long-term compensation
  • Brands and auditing organisations called on to take responsibility for garment factory fire.

Today one year ago, when the fire broke out during the late shift, the workers were sewing jeans for KiK, which were left strewn around the debris. The fire killed more then 250 people and left many injured.

Investigations into the fire found that workers were trapped inside the overcrowded factory by blocked exits and barred windows. Yet, just weeks before auditors from RINA, an Italian audit company contracted by the Social Accountability Acreditation Services SAAS, visited that factory and awarded it an SA8000 certificate.
The SA8000 system, run by Social Accountability International (SAI) is supposed to ascertain that workplaces meet international labour standards and local laws, including on fire and building safety.

An investigation carried out into the audit failings showed that fire safety certificates collected by auditors had been issued by an entirely fictitious company. Auditors failed to notice an entire mezzanine floor where many contract workers were employed. Another auditing company UL Responsible Sourcing also audited the factory in 2011 and 2007.

In December 2012, following sustained public pressure, Kik signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Pakistani workers’ rights organization Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (PILER), in which they agreed to pay one million US dollars in emergency relief. Most of this has now been distributed to families through a commission established by the Sindh High Court. According to the December MoU the amount paid by Kik is not payment in full, and will be subtracted from the final compensation agreed upon.
read more.
Site

* One Year Later, Remembering Ali Enterprises:

Today, September 11th, we commemorate multiple tragedies. It is not only the anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers but also the one year anniversary of the Ali Enterprises fire in Karachi, Pakistan.

The fire, which claimed the lives of 262 workers, was the deadliest factory fire in world history. The subsequent garment sector disasters that have occurred over the past year have continued to highlight the results of greed and criminal negligence that endanger workers in South Asia’s garment industry.

In addition to making jeans for KIK, workers interviewed by the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan documented that Ali Enterprises factory also contracted with brands like Diesel and Go Blue. Sales revenues prior to the fire were estimated to be between 50 to 100 million USD a year but that money was hardly reflected in workers’ paychecks or in investments in preventative safety measures.

Ali Enterprises was an unregistered, illegally functioning factory with an unapproved building design and missing onsite fire-fighting equipment and an emergency alarm system.
Workers reported that the factory employed children and that all workers were employed under an illegal third-party contract system. Workers were not unionized and thus had no collective bargaining power to push for better working conditions.
(….)
What relief victims and their families have received has been won by local and international activists. For the anniversary of the fire, NTUF has organized demonstrations in Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Lahore and Multan with the hopes of revitalizing the issue of working conditions in Pakistan. This tragedy, says NTUF, “has now changed into a new symbol of a workers’ resistance movement which would help the factory workers to secure the right of having a decent working environment and to get rid of social injustice and the prevailing norm of low wage slavery which characterizes crony capitalism.”

Looking ahead, NTUF recommends that:

  1. Appointment letters be given to workers at the time of their appointment.
  2. Safety and protection measures according to international and national labour law must be observed in the workplace and the government should ratify ILO convention of occupational safety and health (OSH).
  3. Electric gates in factories be banned.
  4. Factory buildings be certified by the building authorities.
  5. Training be required for workers regarding labour lawsa and health and safety at workplace.
  6. Serious strategies be developed to initiate the process of forming workers’ representative unions in factories.
  7. Efficient labour inspection mechanisms be developed.
  8. Workers be registered with social security institutions, Employees Old Age Benefits Institution and Workers Welfare Board at the time of their employment.
  9. Laws to register the factories under Factories Act 1934 be observed.
  10. Minimum wages be increased according to the inflation rate

read more
ilrf

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20130912

* First anniversary of Baldia factory fire incident observed:

The first anniversary of Baldia factory fire incident, which caused death of over 250 workers of Ali Enterprises in SITE Karachi was observed here in a modest way amid the law and order situation on a strike in the city on Wednesday.

International solidarity from European trade unions and academicians has been expressed with Pakistan workers on the anniversary.

The trade union leaders and civil society activists led by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research had planned a number of programmes including a major anniversary reference at Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi where families of the victims were to attend a memorial reference/seminar.
Trade union leaders, human rights activists and civil society members were invited to attend the seminar to pay homage to the workers. A theatre by young artists of Karachi was also part of the reference. Noted singer Jawad Ahmed had also arrived in the city to take part in the function and present his songs in solidarity with the deceased workers.

On Tuesday evening, a vigil was held outside the burnt building of Ali Enterprises in Baldia town, where besides worker’s families members a large number of civil society activists had participated.

Besides in Pakistan the victim workers also received international solidarity. The international organisation Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), which has taken up the issue of workers & health and safety conditions at Pakistani workplaces at Europe Union level has sent a solidarity message to Pakistan’s trade union movement.

“Our hearts and minds are with you at this time of remembrance,” the CCC statement said. It is one year since the terrible fire killed and injured so many workers. They were sewing jeans for the German retailer KIK. This fire wasn´t just an accident; It was preventable and caused by terrible negligence of the owner of the factory, as well as the government, the buyer KIK and the auditing companies who declared the factory was safe. As we know, the factory was fatally unsafe and too many people had their lives torn apart for the sake of producing as cheap as possible.
read more.
PAKOBSERVER

* One year after the Baldia inferno:

It has been a year since that terrible fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town, which killed at least 289 people, almost all of them labourers, at the factory unit.

Smoke inhalation and the stampede that broke out in the building were the main causes of the deaths, with not enough fire exits present at the premises. Families of victims continue to suffer. Compensation given out cannot make up for the permanent loss of a wage-earner, or the grief death inflicts, especially when it comes in such terrible form.

It is also shocking that, even so long after the event, charges have still to be framed against the owner of the factory.
This act of negligence is simply inexcusable.
What is also unacceptable is the fact that we seem to have learned no lessons from that blaze and the aftermath of charred bodies it left behind.
Even today, factories across the country remain as dangerous as ever, with no safety measures in place at many of them to guard either against fire or other hazards.
Pakistan, as a country with one of the largest labour forces in the world, given the size of its population, needs to work urgently to remedy the situation.
For this purpose, it must ratify the International Labour Organisation conventions that it has still to put its signatures to, and perhaps, still more importantly, ensure that existing labour rules are enforced.
read more.

* Baldia factory fire: ‘A year gone by, govt yet to take measures’:

20130912 TRIBUNE
Trade unionists and members of the NTUF convened a rally outside the Karachi Press Club to express their solidarity with the victims of the Baldia factory fire incident on Wednesday. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/ EXPRESS

Trade unionists and labour leaders have demanded that the premises of Ali Enterprises be converted into a memorial site for the labourers who lost their lives in the fire incident on September 11, last year. Moreover, they appealed to the government to immediately register all operational factories to avoid such incidents in the future.

Holding placards and banners, the labourers and trade union leaders, under the umbrella of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), convened a rally outside the Karachi Press Club to express their solidarity with the families of the Baldia factory fire victims and to mark the first anniversary of the worst industrial accident of the country.

“The factories are like a live bomb and no one cares about the consequences. I am afraid that the products produced by these factories will cease to be accepted in the international market because of the violation of labour laws,” lamented the NTUF Deputy Secretary Nasir Mansoor. He said that the factories’ owners should step forward for their factories and take positive steps for the safety for the workers

Pakistan Workers Confederation Sindh president Jaleel Shah told The Express Tribune that the federal and provincial governments had not yet implemented the order of Rs10,000 as minimum wage and the factories had not received the notification in this regard though the minimum wages were raised in the budget.
read more.

* Labour leaders seek measures for safety of workers at factories:

The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) held a protest demonstration at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Wednesday in connection with the first anniversary of the fire tragedy at the garment factory, Ali Enterprises, demanding from the authorities to declare the site of the burnt factory as the monument of hundreds of martyred workers.

Despite worsening law and order situation in the metropolis hundreds of workers, including women, participated in the demonstration.

September 11, 2012 was one of the darkest days in the history of labour movement in Pakistan when a deadly fire broke out at Ali Enterprises, a garment factory in SITE area, killing 257 workers within a short span of time.

The workers’ representatives paid glowing tributes to the martyred workers and expressed commitment not to let their sacrifices go unnoticed.
They asked the government to ensure holding effective labour inspections under the Factory Act so as to avoid such incidents in future.
read more.
thenewspk
+++++++++++

20130915

* Woman asks ex-husband to give due share of compensation:

A woman has approached the Sindh High Court for recovery of money from her ex-husband which was paid as compensation over the death of her young son in the Baldia factory fire tragedy.

Farida’s son, Danish, was among those workers who perished in the fire at the garment factory, Ali Enterprises, on September 11, 2012.

The federal government, provincial government, factory owners and their foreign buyers had pledged monetary compensation for all the victims and survivors. Thus, a court-appointed commission distributed more than 0.6 million among the legal heirs of each victim. Farida told the judges that her husband, Liaquat Ali, had left her a few years ago. Since then, the children, including Danish, had been living with the mother.

According to her, after Danish’s death, her ex-husband submitted his claim with the compensation commission and received Rs500,000. She claimed that he only gave her one-sixth of the total amount, which is against the Shariah laws according to which a mother is entitled to one-third of the amount.
read more.
tribune
++++++++++++
20130923

* Factory fire: Baldia families remind PM of his promise to pay Rs300,000:

20130922 TRIBUNE
At a seminar on Saturday, the families asked the prime minister to fulfil his promise. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

The families of the Baldia fire victims want to remind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of his promise to pay Rs300,000 as compensation to each of them.

Sharif made this promise, as the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, when he visited the Baldia factory soon after the tragic industrial disaster on September 11, last year, when at least 250 people died.

At a seminar on Saturday, the families asked the prime minister to fulfil his promise. They were speaking at a seminar on Saturday, organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and trade union committee to mark the first anniversary of the incident at Piler’s office.

The speakers discussed the progress in the compensation process for the victims as the families shared the problems they face in getting their Employees Oldage Benefit Institution (EOBI) pensions, death certificates, death grants from the workers welfare fund and jobs promised by the SITE Association of Industry and Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association to those who lost their jobs in Ali Enterprises.
read more.
tribune

* Baldia factory fire victims still yearning for compensation:

In connection with the first anniversary of the worst-ever factory fire incident of the country in Baldia, SITE, the members of victims’ families, and representatives of trade unions and civil society reminded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday to fulfill his commitment of providing compensation to the victims’ families. The PML-N chief had made this commitment at the time of his visit to the ill-fated factory last year.

They were speaking at a seminar held in connection with the first anniversary of the inferno at Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012, which was jointly organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and Trade Unions Committee at PILER Centre.
During his visit to Karachi on September 14, 2012, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had announced Rs 300,000 donation for each victim’s family but no money has so far been provided in this regard.

Senior lawyer Faisal Siddiqi, veteran trade unionist Noor Mohammad, Joint Director PILER Zulfiqar Shah, a representative of Indus Valley of School of Art Ammad Tahir, representatives of victims families Nazia and Israr addressed the participants. A catalogue of the products displayed at the exhibition held at Arts Council was also launched on the occasion.

The members of victims’ families and civil society also complained about the non-payment of death grant, which was supposed to be paid by the Workers Welfare Fund (WWF) of the federal government to each affected family.
They said that the Employees Old-age Benefit Institution (EOBI), which has to provide pension to all workers, was providing pension to the victims’ families for only five-year period, whereas pensions should be paid for the life time.
Many families complained about non-provision of EOBI pension to them. Similarly, the meagre amount by Social Security Institution of the Sindh government was also not available for all the families, they said.
read more.
thenewspk

++++++++++

20131018

* Buying Better:

Whatever your style, unless you’re home-growing your own cotton or buying your full wardrobe from charity shops (including your socks and jocks), you are buying into a supply chain.

One thing most of us are guilty of, stylish or not, is not knowing what happens along this chain. In this green era many believe the sweatshop days have come to an end, and if they haven’t, conditions probably aren’t that bad. Not so. Unfortunately, somewhere someone is paying the price for our high-street bargains.
And after my trip to Pakistan early this year, I’ll be very slow to flaunt my best bargains in public again. 

Just over a year ago on September 11, 2012 in Karachi, Ali Enterprises, a garment factory, caught fire. 300 workers were trapped inside and burned to death.

They were making jeans destined for sale in Europe, by the high-street German brand KIK, at €5 – €15 a pop. On my first day in Pakistan I was brought to see the burnt-out factory. More akin to a cage, every window on the building was fixed with metal bars like you would see in pictures of old prisons. Despite the fact that many victims were burnt beyond recognition, and some bodies never found, the barred windows are still intact.
The fire broke out next to the fabric store on the ground floor. As it spread, it blocked the entrances to the upper floors and the basement. The fire brigade took a long time to arrive and ran out of water at one stage.
Locals from the area brought ladders but the ladders weren’t high enough to reach the higher levels of the building, and even so, they had a hard job trying to remove the bars.
The tragedy is, and was, overwhelming. My stomach churns at the sight of a huge pile of charred jeans lying outside the factory gathering dust, a stark reminder of the price the industry placed on the lives of their workers.

For many, this fire is the tip of the iceberg. Despite the clear pain at reliving the memories, people are happy to share their stories, as they hope by sharing, someone will listen and maybe help. It is now a year since the accident but the families have not been given full, long-term and fair compensation.
read more.
IMAGE-daily 

To be continued.

map of Asia

THE KARACHI (& LAHORE) FIRE:

20120912
* At least 73 dead in Karachi factory blaze- fire officer
* 100 dead in Karachi garment factory fire
* Karachi factory fire death toll tops 100
* Geo’s factory fire coverage obstructed
* Devastating fires in factories, 21 burnt alive in Lahore

20120913
* Death toll of Karachi factory fire rose to 289
* Death toll from Karachi factory fire soars
* Hundreds killed in Karachi factory inferno
* FIA investigating fire incidents- Malik
* Case lodged against garment factory owners
* 289 killed in Karachi factory fire
* Safety at suppliers responsibility big brands towards workers
* 21 burnt alive in Lahore, at least 22 in Karachi
* Investigation in factory fire incident
* Overall death toll from factory fires soars to 310
* Workers used sewing machines to smash windows
* Tragedy: PM asks governor for report on factory fire
* Fire from hell
* geo.tv- Full Coverage
* Global brands should ensure garment worker safety
* Pakistani factory fire highlights lack of workplace safety measures, says ILO
* Pak factory fires raise question about industrial safety as 310 killed
* HRCP asks govt how factories with bad working conditions can operate
* ‘He was wearing black T-shirt and off-white trousers when he left for work’
* Protest against death of workers in Karachi garment factory by NTUF

20120914
* Karachi factory fire: Fearing fallout, industry keeps its distance
* Survivors narrate nightmarish experience
* No killed worker had appointment letter
* Choosing between hazardous work or starvation
* Murder case registered against Karachi fire factory owners
* Burned alive: Who is to blame?
* They had no chance of survival: Firefighters
* Industrialists want govt to ensure safety standards
* City hospitals can treat only 50-70 burn victims at a time
* Haunted factory throws up human remains
* KCCI asks govt to give relief to inferno affectees
* KESC waives dues of affected families
* Burnt Karachi factory was not registered: Ministry of Labour report
* Karachi fire and after
* Geo.tv- Full Coverage
* in The News – an overview- updated
* Around 350 workers were caught by fire and died
* Pakistan Factory Fires Tied to Criminal Negligence by Government and Employers
* Death Trap Factories in Pakistan
* The horror of it all is almost unimaginable
* Make textile factories safe

20120916
* Factories in Pakistan more like death trap: traders union
* Karachi Inferno: Factory cleared after 41 hours
* Families of missing workers still looking for bodies
* Punjab government announces Rs. 3 lacs aid package for victims
* SHC bails accused
* Court grants bail to factory owners
* “We will prove ourselves not guilty,” say Baldia factory owners
* Baldia Town factory owner alleges fire brigade arrived
* Sindh CM orders probe into garments factory fire incident
* Factory fire highlights risks for workers
* Geo.tv- Full Coverage
* Fire not caused by generator explosion, say investigators
* Factory owners shifted to unknown location
* Fire tragedy: Is a resignation enough?
* Rehman Malik rejects initial report on factory fire
* Governor assures aid, jobs to fire-affected families
* Fire victims remembered
* PRGMEA demands impartial inquiry into factory fire
* Fires and shrinking exit doors
* If the fire hadn’t killed them, lung disease might have
* Pakistani factory struck by fire believed to supply European market
* ILO announces action plan to boost workplace safety in Pakistani factories
* Deadly Denim: Workers Burned Alive Making Jeans for Export

20120917
* Baldia blaze Statement of factory owner recorded
* Four days late: PM flies into Karachi to review factory fire
* Sabotage can’t be ruled out in factory fire: Interior Minister
* Baldia factory fire: 13 workers in police custody for questioning
* Fight for rights: Safe working environment for workers demanded
* Geo.tv- Full Coverage
* Rs20m AWT package for Khi fire victims
* Workers’ safety: Leftists protest lax enforcement of regulations at factories
* Our poor factory workers
* Comment: The silence of the urban industrial elite

20120918
* Malik sees terrorism behind inferno: Record shows factory had 255 workers
* Garment factory: Karachi factory partially insured with Reliance
* Factory owners directed to install fire safety mechanism
* British firm diverts export order to Dhaka in protest against factory tragedy
* Pakistan fire victims producing for German low-cost retailer KIK
* Baldia factory inferno : JC told factories registration not mandatory
* Investigation reports on Karachi inferno to be filed today
* Fire dept’s report on Baldia factory blaze is ‘laughable’, say civil society groups
* Passports given to court nazir: Banks told to freeze factory owners’ accounts

20120919
* Baldia Town blaze tragedy
* All workers from Baldia factory to get Rs3,600 in pensions, says EOBI
* Bahria Town gives Rs200,000 to each deceased of factory fire
* Factory inferno: Ali Enterprises’ assets frozen on SBP orders
* Factory fire investigation: Men arrested after calls traced from owners’ cell
* Closed doors made it worse, says witness:
* Sindh governor, not CM, called off factory checks in 1999, tribunal told
* Burnt factories, charred lives and shop floors
* Multiple government departments control all factories: industrialist

20120920
* The truth behind the flames
* Baldia Town inferno tragedy : Only five labour officers for 10,000 factories!
* Short circuit behind Baldia inferno ruled out
* As time runs out in morgues, the living line up
* Factory fire: avoiding repetition

20120921
* German retailer KIK to conduct safety review in Pakistan
* Inspectors Certified Pakistani Factory as Safe Before Disaster
* For priceless lives, Karachi factories fined just British-era penalty of Rs500
* Tribunal demands halt to parallel probes
* Remand granted to accused of Baldia factory incident
* LHC grants factory owners protective bail
* Cause of Baldia factory fire remains mystery as probe proceeds
* 3 watchmen of burnt factory on remand
* Unions are best way to prevent further disasters in Pakistan
* ‘Pakistan must ensure decent work for its 55 million workforce’
* Factory fire: ensuring workers’ rights
* Baldia factory fire victims still not compensated

20120923/24
* Fire put out at another factory
* Fire breaks out in garment factory
* Workers’ death in Karachi and Lahore: Condolence references and protest rallies by PTUDC
* Workers Rights Movement formed to help victims’ families
* PM distributes cheques among factory fire victims’ heirs
* Owners of gutted factory show distrust in probe committees
* When misery repeats itself, but not quite
* Social Accountability International: We are devastated by the Pakistan fire & determined to find answers

20120925
* Worker Rights Movement Formed, Launching Movement Against Factory Fire Culprits
* Action against owners, state functionaries demanded
* Baldia factory blaze survivor speaks of a forenoon fire
* Lazy fire brigade to blame for tragedy, say owners
* Our employees being harassed: Baldia Town factory owners

20120926
* Owners told to file assets list in court
* Lazy fire brigade to blame for tragedy, say owners
* Fire officer records his statement to the tribunal
* Fire dept fails to find cause of Baldia factory inferno
* Short circuit may have caused the fire, says fire brigade
* Baldia factory fire: Who is architect Qamar Uddin?

20120927
* Report on factory fire to be submitted tomorrow
* Tribunal probing Karachi factory fire will submit report by Sept 28

20120928
* Safety measures for workers being taken on emergency basis
* Toxic fumes caused the most deaths- Autopsy reports
* Tribunal suspects police of hiding report
* Architect’s licence was cancelled in 2001
* Post-fire incident: some suggestions

20120929
* A sign at today’s rally in Karachi
* Labour rules: 98% of factories have no trade unions, say rights activists

20120930
* Manager of Baldia factory remanded
* Fire station in SITE hasn’t had water in years over unpaid bills
* PRGMEA establishes support fund
* Spotlight on social compliance

20121001
* No factory check sans business community representative
* Faryal distributes cheques among relatives of victims
* Workers’ safety and rights issues

20121002
* 35 families of Karachi fire victims paid pensions
* Owners of Karachi fire factory granted bail till Oct 6
* Owners granted interim bail; six others remanded
* Contractor remanded in police custody
* ‘It’s the fire survivors that need attention now’

20121003
* No action: District govt turns blind eye to factories in residential areas
* With only 4 days to go, Adil’s wedding plans cut short

20121004
* After three weeks, families told to wait 15 more days
* 22 days later, some victims remain unidentified
* Deadly Pakistan Factory Fire Raises Questions Over Safety Inspections

20121005
* Baldia factory investigation: Gates were closed on orders of owners when fire started, say witnesses
* Watchmen remanded in police custody
* Police find no evidence of arson in factory fire case
* Police submit interim charge sheet
* Court dissatisfied with incomplete charge sheet
* A rally was organized in solidarity with the victims

2012107
* Court rejects Bhaila brothers’ interim bail, orders arrest
* Two of three Ali Enterprises owners sent to jail

20121009
* Workers’ Rights Movement in Pakistan Gains Momentum: Court Orders Arrest of Ali Enterprises Owners
* Cheque for families of victim of factory fire
* Baldia fire mystery deepens as 70 persons still missing
* Govt told to speed up victims’ identification
* SHC orders expediting DNA testing of bodies

20121010
* Witnesses forced to testify against accused, JM told
* Two witnesses testify factory doors were open
* Police accused of extorting statements against Baldia factory owners
* IO allowed to record two owners’ statements
* China donates Rs2m to victims’ heirs
* Businessmen warn opting full shutdown

20121011
* SHC calls for comments on Baldia fire tragedy
* JI will pay for orphans till Matric
* Mourning day
* Factory certification body fails to assist victims of Karachi factory fire

20121212
* Agonising wait ends as seven factory fire victims identified

20121014
* Health, safety for factory workers demanded

20121015
* Factory fire: misery of victims’ kin
* Workplace fires: ‘Prepare because you never think it could happen to you’

20121016
* Urge KIK to identify buyers and pay compensation to Pakistan fire victims
* Court to announce order on Baldia investigation today

20121017
* Failure to bring accused to court irks magistrate

20121018
* Court orders jailer to present factory owners

20121019
* Baldia fire case: Court allows police plea for custody
* Court remands owners into ‘dusk to dawn’ police custody
* Labourers’ body to protest tomorrow
* Baldia factory blaze: Forget the toll, it’s just about closure now

20121020
* Joint efforts urged to safeguard rights of workers

20121021
* SHC suspends owners’ remand into police custody

20121024
* Court extends deadline for final list of charges to Nov 2
* Discounter Offers $1,930 Per Victim in Factory Fire

20121025
* German firm to compensate Pakistan factory fire victims

20121030
* Textile discounter KIK makes cheap offer to victims of Pakistan garment
factory fire

20121031
* Baldia fire tribunal report ready, to be made public once CM decides

20121101
* Italy-based firm under fire for Karachi factory disaster
* Karachi factories safety standards appalling

20121102
* Karachi factory fire: Court orders officer to submit charge sheet in 14 days

20121103
* Safety lax in Pakistan’s textile industry
* The Baldia Town factory fire was not pre-meditated murder!

20121104
* Defence wants owners to be freed as police ask for 4th extension to complete probe
* Baldia fire: DNA reports of 30 missing workers still awaited

20121106
* Baldia factory fire: Govt given seven days to complete DNA testing
* Owners seek access to bank account, possession of factory
* SHC seeks report on safety rules in industrial units

20121107
* Monument to Baldia factory fire victims to be built in SITE

20121109
* Information cells set up to handle complaints from families of victims
* Inspection of garments, chemical industries demanded
* Workers want industries inspection resumed
* Labour bodies demand audits, inspections of factories

20121110
* More than 100 families yet to receive compensation

20121114
* Factory fire case: Court orders registration of factories across Sindh
* SHC seeks reports on DNA tests, compensation money
* Ali Enterprises not registered, SHC told
* IO gets one more day to submit final charge sheet

20121115
* Factory fire tribunal: ‘Negligence’ lands officials in hot water
* Court orders restoration of owners’ frozen accounts
* Non-bailable warrants issued against four officials

20121117
* Factory fire victims’ heirs to get compensation

20121118
* ‘Baldia bereaved to be given Rs500,000 per family’
* Workers march in protest
* Labour activists demand inspection of factories
* Three officials granted pre-arrest bail
* SITE MD granted pre-arrest bail in factory fire case

20121120
* Many families of Baldia victims yet to be compensated
* Factory gates were closed on the day of fire, witnesses tell court
* Garment factory blaze : SHC issues notice to prosecutor general
* Owners told to file asset details by Nov 26
* SHC tells owners to submit assets’ details in four days

20121123
* Prgmea to start skill training programme
* Judge refuses to hear Baldia factory owners’ bail plea

20121127
* Factory fire case Another accused granted bail

20121128
* Factory fire case Another accused granted bail

20121204
* Short circuit, all of Karachi to blame for tragedy, says tribunal
* Court questions ability of civic agencies to deal with emergencies

20121205
* Tribunal recommends closing down police’s forensic department
* Bail pleas to be decided on 7th in factory fire case

20121206
* Families try to prove that loved ones were lost in fire
* KIK & The Karachi Garment factory Fire disaster

20121207
* Workplace safety: Labour dept likely to launch action plan next month
* Tod in der Fabrik: der Preis für billige Kleidung (& KIK) / Death in the factory: the price of cheap clothing (& KIK)
* Certified Safe, a Factory in Karachi Still Quickly Burned

20121208
* Hoping to prevent another Baldia-like tragedy, experts hash out recommendations

20121209
* Baldia Factory Fire: Court dismisses bail application of two security guards

20121210
* Fresh samples for DNA test sent to Islamabad
* Baldia blaze fails to move authorities
* Now the threats

20121211
* SAI: Q & A: Ali Enterprises Fire in Karachi
* Tribunal identifies short circuit as cause

20121213
* Tribunal identifies short circuit as cause
* SHC orders protection for witnesses, evidence to be ‘preserved’

20121217
* Baldia factory tragedy raises questions on fire dept efficiency

20121220
* Court calls for report on forensic tests

20121223
* Jawad composes special song to pay tributes to workers

20121229
* A noble cause: With a new song, singer Jawad Ahmad shifts focus

20130101
* Song for change: Jawad Ahmed sings to bring a revolution for Pakistan’s labourers

20130102
* Jawad touches workers’ hearts with his performance
* Remembering Baldia victims

20130106
* European firm to pay compensation to heirs of Baldia fire victims
* ‘German firm to pay $1m for Baldia factory fire victims’
* Seven more bodies identified through DNA tests
* Suspects to be indicted on 19th in factory blaze case
* Delay in DNA test results: No end to woes of Baldia missing workers’ families

20130111
* SHC seeks proposals to form commission for victims’ compensation
* SHC loses patience with four-month delay
* KIK signs compensation agreement for Victims of Ali Enterprises Fire Tragedy

20130113
* Victims of Baldia factory fire: Parents ask court to expedite DNA tests for unidentified bodies
* Poor man’s justice
* SHC seeks comments on delay in identifying victims

20130114
* Baldia factory fire case: Police drop ‘intentional murder’ charge against suspects

20130116
* Accountability: Baldia fire commission report sought

20130122
* Court calls up prosecutor to argue Baldia factory owners’ bail plea
* Jawad Ahmed pays tribute to victims of Baldia factory fire

20130124
* Case against Baldia factory owners withdrawn
* Baldia Town factory fire: Murder charges against factory owners dropped
* Ebad concerned over factory blaze remark
* Minister changes statement over withdrawal of case against owners
* Sindh Governor calls Zardari, Ashraf over Baldia factory fire case
* Case against Baldia factory owners not to be withdrawn: Zardari

20130125
* PM’s alleged direction in Baldia Factory case
* Senators walk out against PM’s ‘favour’ to Baldia factory owners
* ‘Case against Baldia factory owners not to be withdrawn’
* Treasury bench protests dropping of murder charges on PM’s orders
* PM’s office clarifies he asked murder charges to be re-investigated not withdrawn
* Unless families agree, murder charges can’t be dropped, say Lawyers
* Govt won’t be allowed to rob victims of justice

20130127
* ‘What if it were the PM’s son?’
* Negligence is not murder, insists KCCI
* Fire fallout

20130128
* Tribunal chief alleges negligence on part of management
* SHC issues notices to PM’s principal secretary, others

20130129
* ‘Jobless of Baldia factory fire tragedy being given jobs’
* Baldia fire case SHC issues notices to PM’s PS, others
* Fair probe demanded into Baldia fire inferno
* Notices issued on plea against removal of murder charge in Baldia factory fire case
* SHC reserves order on bail pleas

20130131
* SHC forms body to distribute compensation

20130201
* Pakistani unions demand justice for textile workers

20130203
* Beacon of hope: Compensation in sight for Baldia fire families
* Looking for a way out?: SHC reserves order on Baldia factory owners’ bail plea
* Dna testing: Another body identified
* Murder charge removed without informing prosecutor, court told
* Court seeks prosecutor’s help over supplementary charge sheet

20130204
* Baldia inferno case: a cover-up

20130205
* Another body identified

20130207
* Compensation: Families of Baldia victims hold protest
* Jawad Ahmad launches video for Baldia affectees
* Sunn Lo Kay Hum Mazdoor Hain By Jawad Ahmad- for Baldia affectees

20130208
* Denied closure, families of Baldia factory fire victims agree to mass burial
* Move for mass burial of fire victims slammed
* Trade unionists demand compensation to Baldia factory victims
* Pakistani unions demand justice for textile workers

20130209
* The proletariat in peril

20130210
* In remembrance: Country’s worst industrial disaster comes alive through art
* Artists pay tribute to Baldia fire victims
* Awaaz: The voice of Baldia fire
* After the inferno

20130211
* SHC grants bail to all accused
* SHC releases Baldia factory owners on bail: Lawyer

20130212
* Baldia factory fire Bail granted to all accused
* Murder charges dropped against Baldia garments factory owners
* Baldia factory owners get bail
* Baldia factory owners out of jail on bail
* Seeking redemption: Baldia owners offer groceries in exchange for loyalty
* Improperly framed FIR backfires
* Owners among four given bail in Baldia factory fire case

20130213
* Incomplete preparations: Baldia fire victims’ burial delayed

20130214
* A mass burial for the factory fire’s remaining victims

20130215
* Families urge court to allow mass burial of 21 unidentified bodies
* SHC says no to mass burial

20130216
* SHC seeks explanation from forensic expert, police

20130217
* Court asked to decide on charges
* Hearing of bail pleas put off till 23rd

20130221
* Last rites: Court allows Baldia fire bodies to be buried
* SHC orders burial of 17 unidentifiable Baldia fire victims

20130224
* 18 unidentified bodies to be buried

20130225
* Five months on, 17 unidentified workers laid to rest
* Hoping for closure, families bury unidentified dead

20130228
* No bodies, no compensation for heirs

20130306
* Deadline extended: Baldia applications will be received till March 9

20130313
* Baldia factory fire case: SHC gives one week to identify charred bodies
* SHC wants DNA test reports in seven days

20130315
* SHC orders inspection of Baldia garment factory
* Legal action on fire in textile factory in Karachi, Pakistan

20130320
* LHC constitutes commission to address fire safety

20130327
* Piler deposits $750,000 in account of SHC nazir
* Piler deposits $1 million in SHC account for Baldia fire victims

20130416
* Pleas for help months after Pakistan fire

20130503
* Heirs of 23 victims yet to get compensation

20130721
* European lawyers fight for Baldia fire compensation
* ‘Compensation should equal the price of what the workers produced’

20130907
* Call to make public findings of Baldia fire probe
* Unionists demands: ‘Govt should reveal report on Baldia factory fire

20130908
* Call for making Justice Alavi’s report public

20130910
* Baldia factory fire: ‘Buyers, inspectors equally responsible for catastrophe’
* ‘Owners told workers to salvage goods
* One year after Baldia fire
* Baldia factory fire tragedy: NTUF demands compensation for affected workers as per international standards

20130911
* Victim families’ hope for justice fading away
* Minor heirs to receive compensation with added profit
* Families of the Baldia fire victims move on with their lives but with a heavy heart
* Candlelight vigil marks first anniversary of factory fire
* A year on, no consolation for families of the missing dead
* Safety rules on paper still pending in action
* Still awaiting compensation in Pakistan: one year after Ali Enterprises burnt down
* One Year Later, Remembering Ali Enterprises

20130912
* First anniversary of Baldia factory fire incident observed
* One year after the Baldia inferno
* Baldia factory fire: ‘A year gone by, govt yet to take measures’
* Labour leaders seek measures for safety of workers at factories

20130915
* Woman asks ex-husband to give due share of compensation

20130923
* Factory fire: Baldia families remind PM of his promise to pay Rs300,000
* Baldia factory fire victims still yearning for compensation

20131018
* Buying Better

latest tweets (& news)

Convention on the Rights of the Child
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I wonder who they are
The men who really run this land
And I wonder why they run it
With such a thoughtless hand

What are their names
And on what streets do they live
I'd like to ride right over
This afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind
About peace for mankind
Peace is not an awful lot to ask
    David Crosby

I wonder who they are
The people who are buying these clothes
I'd like to know what they've paid for it
How much the makers have paid for this
Fairer income is not an awful lot to ask
Better working conditions is not an awful lot to ask
    A. Searcher

For more and other (labour) news you can follow on twitter: @asearcher2