Baldia factory fire wanted frontman ‘Bhola’ arrested in Bangkok


Bangkok police on Saturday arrested Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, the alleged frontman in the 2012 arson attack at Baldia Factory, Thai daily the Bangkok Post reported.

Abdul Rehman was arrested in room 405 of the Royal Garden Home hotel in Bangkok after commandos from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) and Interpol officers conducted a raid.

About 259 workers were burnt alive in a devastating fire that engulfed a multi-storey garment factory in Baldia Town in September 2012.

Police found the man alone in the room and did not see anything illegal there. They collected clothes, documents and cigarette butts for further examination.

Acting CSD commander Suthin Sapphuang, who led the raid, said the arrest was connected to a fire at the Ali Enterprises textile factory in Karachi on September 11, 2012, when 259 people were killed. Much of the factory’s garment output went to the German company KIK, who have paid out nearly two million dollars in compensation to the victims’ families.

Pakistani authorities concluded the attack was arson and linked it to the suspect. An anti-terrorism court in Karachi issued a warrant for Rehman’s arrest on September 16 this year. Police had filed the supplementary charge sheet last month under the anti-terrorism law following a lengthy reinvestigation of the case.

According to the supplementary report, former chief of the MQM Karachi Tanzeemi Committee Hammad Siddiqui, his alleged frontman and then Baldia Town sector in-charge Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, and three to four unknown men were named as absconders in the case while around a dozen others were left out for lack of evidence and the owners of the ill-fated industrial unit were listed among the prosecution witnesses.

Initially, the police had charge-sheeted the owners and some employees of the factory in the tragic incident. However, the reinvestigation of the case was ordered in March last year through a joint investigation team after a JIT report submitted in the Sindh High Court in February 2015 revealed that the factory was set on fire after its owners failed to pay protection money.

The JIT had named Hammad, Abdul Rehman, Zubair, Ali Hasan, Umar Hasan, Abdul Sattar, Iqbal Adeeb Khanum and four unidentified persons as proposed accused in the report. However, police contended that incriminating evidence was available only against the two proposed accused.

A report has revealed that Abdul Rehman, alias Bhola, is a member of Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP).

A private TV channel obtained a membership form of Abdul Rehman showing his association with the Karachi-based party led by former Karachi mayor Syed Mustafa Kamal. The form also bears his biodata.

The report added Bhola is a former worker of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and an employee of Karachi Municipal Corporation’s health department.

PSP chief Mustafa Kamal denied that his party had any association with Bhola.

“Bhola was never a member of PSP, we categorically deny this claim. Anyone can download and fill the party form off the internet,” Kamal told reporters upon arriving in Lahore.

Kamal, was in Lahore to meet party office bearers and workers, clarified that the allegations relating to the factory fire against Rehman were levied when he was a member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, adding that PSP did not even exist at the time.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team will fly to Bangkok for Bhola’s arrest.