The forensic enquiry into the fire at the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) building two months ago [on May 09] has ruled out the possibility of an accident, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The enquiry report by the Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) suggests that the fire was made to look like an accident. It also rejects the findings of an earlier report prepared by the LDA that the fire erupted as a result of a short-circuit or overheating from floodlights.
District Coordination Officer Nasim Sadiq, during a visit to the crime scene on May 10, suggested that the fire, which broke out on the seventh floor of the LDA Plaza, was an act of arson.
Sadiq expressed his concern over the presence of important files on those floors of the plaza which had been declared unsafe and were set to be demolished. He observed that the files had been brought from outside to the floor and then set on fire. The DCO also wrote a letter to the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team (CMIT) to investigate the incident of June 29 as well as the May 9 fire.
Responding to the DCO’s accusations, LDA said the claims had been made in haste. The LDA report stated that the wiring of floodlights could have ignited the fire as the floodlight was close to the ground. LDA also rejected claims that files were brought from elsewhere and later set on fire.
The report states that LDA Director Law Chaudary Ijaz Mahmood during his visit with the CMIT on May 10, learnt that some files may be present under the rubble. In order to recover these files, he came to the site with two subordinates. However, due to the large number of files, the director decided to revisit the place two days later along with more staff.
Based on forensic evidence, including interviews of the LDA director, Law entrance record keeper, 23 samples of burnt and semi burnt chipboard, documents and other debris, the report concluded that the fire was not accidental.
The report observed that the burn patterns on documents were different from what they would have been had the fire occurred due to overheating of floodlights. The team also failed to find any remains of the floodlight from the area. Considering the condition of documents found at the site, the report also suggests that additional files were brought to the seventh floor to add to the volume of documents deemed burnt.
The report also claims that overheating of floodlight could not have ignited the fire as it only spread to 9.6 feet of the area along the eastern wall where the files and documents were present, acting as fuel to the fire. It also casts doubt on the installation of floodlight at such a low angle as it was installed to provide light for the CCTV camera.
The report also alleges that the CCTV installed at the site was removed soon after the incident while footage of the fire was not shared with investigators.
LDA RUBBISHES PFSA REPORT:
An official of the LDA, on condition of anonymity, said the fire had been caused by the floodlight and its remains were also found from the site. “It was not an act of arson. The PFSA report only aims at damaging the reputation of the LDA,” he said.
He said that Chaudhry Ijaz had visited the site on May 10 with two subordinates to retrieve some files but he decided to come again two days later because the three men could not sift through the rubble. “When Ijaz visited the LDA building after two days along with more staff another fire broke out soon after they left. The Authority had given a contract to Maaksons Company on May 9 to demolish the three floors damaged by the fire and the company had installed CCTVs on the premises,” he said, adding that the building did not have any CCTVs before May 9.