Two sentenced to death for deadly 2012 Pakistan factory fire


Bystanders look on outside the burnt-out garment factory in Karachi on September 14, 2012.  (ASIF HASSAN/AFP/GettyImages)
Bystanders look on outside the burnt-out garment factory in Karachi on September 14, 2012. (ASIF HASSAN/AFP/GettyImages)

Two men were sentenced to death on Tuesday (22) for starting a fire at a Pakistan garment factory that killed over 260 people in 2012.



A Karachi court found Mohammad Zubair and Abdul Rehman guilty of arson, ruling the pair intentionally set the Ali Enterprises factory ablaze after the owner refused to pay a bribe.

In what was considered a largely symbolic gesture, the court sentenced them to 264 separate death sentences, along with life imprisonment.

“I am satisfied with the court’s verdict as it has awarded them very appropriate sentences,” public prosecutor Sajid Mehboob Sheikh told AFP.



Pakistan’s moratorium against the death penalty was controversially lifted after a bloody Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar in 2014.

Since then the country has hanged hundreds, many of whom were linked to militancy.

Both Zubair and Rehman were members of the once-powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party that ruled Karachi for decades.



The party was frequently accused of assassinating opponents, extorting businesses, and orchestrating strikes to cement its stranglehold over the city until an operation by security forces effectively crushed them in 2013.

The court acquitted an MQM provincial lawmaker and three others of any wrongdoing in the case.

Rehman fled Pakistan after the fire, but was arrested by Thai authorities at a hotel in Bangkok’s red-light district.



The fire, which at first was thought to have been an accident, is believed to have been the worst industrial disaster in the country’s history.

A judicial probe highlighted a lack of emergency exits, poor safety training for workers, and the failure of government inspectors as contributing to the high death toll.

Much of the factory’s output was being made for the German company KIK, who paid out over $6 million in compensation to families of the victims.

The garment trade is vital to Pakistan’s shaky economy, particularly the export sector.