According to a JIT report submitted in the Sindh High Court, the Baldia fire tragedy of 2012, which left 258 factory workers burnt to death, was not an unfortunate accident but a work of miscreants affiliated with the MQM. The report makes this claim on the basis of a confession extracted from an alleged worker of the MQM, identified as M Rizwan Qureshi. The story goes that a high-ranking member of the MQM, through his front man, had demanded Rs 200m from the owners of the factory. On their refusal to pay extortion money, the factory was set on fire by individuals affiliated with the MQM. As per the report, Mr Qureshi received all this information from MQM’s former sector in-charge, Baldia town. The SHC has made the JIT report part of the record for consideration.

The report heavily relies on a testimony of an individual who may have confessed under duress. Either way, it is highly unlikely that Mr Qureshi’s statement will hold water without corroborating evidence. The “party high official” who allegedly demanded money from factory owners has not been named. It is also not clear whether the factory owners have confirmed the stories. Furthermore, law enforcement agencies have yet to reveal what actions they’ve taken against individuals named by Mr Qureshi. In its current state, the JIT report appears incomplete.

The government and relevant institutions are responsible for ensuring and conducting impartial investigation into every incident, especially if it involves loss of life and property. If the MQM is in fact innocent as it claims, it would do well to ensure that real culprits, if they exist, are identified and held accountable. The party has been repeatedly accused of perpetrating violence. It is in the party’s interest to make sincere efforts to clear its name. Other political parties must refrain from using national tragedies to bash opponents or strike deals. The victims of the Baldia tragedy deserve justice. It is hoped that the court and prosecution will deliver.