Over 100 shops gutted in yet another mystery fire


KARACHI – More than 100 shops in Empress Market were gutted in the wee hours of Sunday, affecting 25 percent of one of Karachi’s oldest markets. Most of the torched shops belonged to dry fruit sellers and household items’ sellers, with the affected shopkeepers claiming that goods worth millions of rupees were lost.
More than 32 fire tenders from across the city reached the market to douse the flames, but the intensity of the blaze was such that fire fighters only managed to control the situation after a two-hours-long struggle. Police and Rangers personnel also reached the site to cordon off the area. Fortunately, no casualties was reported in the incident.
Police officials initially declared that the blaze was caused by short-circuiting, but shop owners rubbished the argument. “As many as 108 shops were torched in the market, goods worth billions were lost. We cannot believe that this was caused by a short circuit. It is clear that terrorists involved in targeted killings are responsible for this,” Abu Bakar, a shop owner, told Pakistan Today.
Another shopkeeper, Abdul Rehman, urged the government to make all necessary arrangements for them since they had lost everything. “We are not part of any conflict between political parties in the city, and so, we want the government to help us,” he said. Others gathered said that if the government does not make any announcements regarding reconstruction of shops, the affected will take to the streets along with their families.
From the government side, Information Technology Minister Raza Haroon visited the market and assured shopkeepers that the 108 shops gutted will be restored to their original state and that financial help will be provided to the affected. The government has constituted a five-member committee to probe the incident; members include Haroon, Empress Market Association President Liaquat Khan, Karachi DCO, and the Revenue ADO.
“Investigation is under way, and we can’t say conclude anything before it is completed,” DIG South Iqbal Mehmood told Pakistan Today. No FIR of the incident was lodged till the filing of this report. The Empress Market blaze is yet another addition in the list of mysterious fires in the city occuring on a Sunday.
The fires that erupted in the PNSC building on Moulvi Tameezuddin Road adjacent to the Native Jetty Bridge and the Saima Trade Tower on II Chundrigar Road also occured on Sundays, but the reasons behind these occurings remained unexplained.