Karachi/BANGKOK - A Pakistani man suspected of starting a devastating factory fire in Karachi four years ago that killed 259 people has been arrested in Bangkok, Thai police said Saturday.

Abdul Rehman alias Bhola, 46, was detained at a hotel in the red-light district Nana area of the capital on Friday evening, said Thailand’s Interpol chief.

“Thai Interpol tracked this suspect following an arrest warrant sought by the Pakistani authorities,” Major General Apichart Suriboonya told AFP. “He will be repatriated as soon as Pakistan is ready,” he added.

Apichart said Bhola was suspected of being part of a criminal gang that was extorting the owners of a Karachi garment factory. The gang burned down the Baldia factory when the owners refused to pay seven million baht ($200,000), he said.

Bhola was arrested from Room No 405 of the Royal Garden Home Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 3 (Nana), following a raid by commandos from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) and Interpol officers. Police found the man alone in the room and did not see anything illegal there.

“An anti-terrorism court in Karachi issued arrest warrants for Rehman on September 16 this year, but Pakistani authorities later learned that he had fled to Thailand,” a Thai police official said.

On Saturday, FIA Sindh confirmed that the Interior Ministry had approved a team to bring back the key accused in Baldia factory fire case from Thailand.

Zafar Baloch, FIA Sindh spokesperson, said that FIA Deputy Director Badruddin Baloch and Inspector Rehmatullah Domki were among the approved team.

He informed that the team would fly to Thailand as per the directives of concerned authority to take into custody Abdur Rahman aka Bhola.

This year, on November 28, an anti-terrorism court, during hearing of Baldia factory fire case, had admonished the authorities for not being able to arrest the suspects.

It had also ordered the Interior Ministry to arrest fugitives with the help of Interpol.

So far two main accused in the case, Abdur Rahman aka Bhola and Zubair aka Lala have been arrested while Hammad Siddiqui is still at large.

The fire at the Ali Enterprises factory in September 2012 was one of Pakistan’s worst industrial disasters.

A judicial probe into the blaze was damning, pointing to a lack of emergency exits, poor safety training for workers, the packing in of machinery and the failure of government inspectors to spot any of these faults.

Initially the fire was believed to be an accident but a Joint Investigation Team ‘reinvestigating’ the case this year termed the incident a “planned sabotage and terrorist activity”.

A murder case was registered against the factory owners, but it never came to trial.

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.


Staff Reporter from Lahore adds: Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) chief Mustafa Kamal yesterday denied his party’s any association with Abdul Rehman alias Bhola, a suspect who was arrested in Bangkok in connection with the Baldia factory.

Talking to reporters at Lahore Airport, Kamal said: “Bhola was never a member of PSP. We categorically deny this claim. Anyone can download and fill the party form off the internet.” Kamal is on three-day tour to Lahore to organise his party in the Punjab’s capital.

During his stay, he will meet party office-bearers and workers, address the Meet the Press programme at Lahore Press Club today and hold a press conference on Monday.

Mustafa 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.

Kamal said his party had challenged the status quo and politics of fear in Pakistan. He said PSP would soon become the strongest party of Karachi. He said he had great expectation from people of Punjab to make PSP a strong party.