250 workers were burnt alive in 2012
Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, the owners of the Ali Enterprises garments factory, recorded their statement in the Baldia fire case via video link on Thursday.
A Karachi anti-terrorism court was hearing the case on Thursday. The suspect’s lawyers and the special public prosecutor were present in court.
The Bhaila brothers recorded their statement while sitting at the Pakistani consulate in Dubai.
They claimed that MQM was demanding ‘protection’ money from them. Their factory manager Mansoor tried to convince the party to agree to a sum of Rs1.5 million. Then, MQM’s Rehman Bhola asked for Rs250 million along with factory shares. During the negotiation process, their lawyer was killed and one of their uncles was kidnapped in 2013. He was missing for 70 days.
The brothers claimed that former CPLC chief Ahmed Chinoy advised them to reach a compromise with the kidnappers. They paid a heavy amount after which their uncle was released.
They said they had security concerns ever since Rizwan Qureshi submitted his JIT report in court. The brothers and their family members then shifted to Dubai.
“Chinoy called our relatives on September 13,” they told the court, adding that he had sent them a message from Governor House. They said that they were asked to hand themselves to the police and compensate the families of the fire victims.
MQM’s former MNA Salman Baloch came to meet us in jail, they said, adding that the political party kept pressurising them even they were released.
They claimed that they even paid Rs50 million to Ali Qadri, who claimed to be a close aide of MQM deputy convener Anees Qaimkhani. We asked him to distribute the amount but it hasn’t been done as yet, they added.
The court did not allow the media to attend the hearing.
At least 250 workers were burnt alive in a factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town on September 11, 2012. Nine people affiliated with the MQM, including Rauf Siddiqui, Rehman Bhola and Zubair alias Chariya, have been charged with setting the garment factory on fire after the factory owners refused to pay them Rs250 million as ‘protection’ money.
The owners were initially booked in the case and arrested for allegedly committing premeditated murder and neglecting the safety of their workers. The brothers were granted bail in February 2013 and eventually fled to Dubai claiming that they have been receiving threats to their lives.