KARACHI - A Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team brought back Abdul Rehman aka Bhola, key accused in the Baldia factory fire case, from Thailand to Karachi on Tuesday.

Rehman, former member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and in-charge of Baldia Town Sector, had managed to flee the country after he was named as prime suspect in the deadly fire in a Baldia Town factory that claimed 259 lives. Sources privy to the development said that a joint investigation team (JIT) was likely to be formed to interrogate Rehman.

A fire broke out at Ali Enterprises on September 11, 2012. It was initially declared an accident. NGOs and civil society took notice of the incident and called for an investigation into it. A commission formed to investigate the incident had ruled out any criminal intentions behind the incident. It blamed owners of the factory for criminal negligence. The owners of the factory fled the country.

The case took a turn on February 2015 when a report involving one of the accused, Rizwan Qureshi, was submitted by the Rangers in the court. Besides criminal activities of Qureshi, the Rangers report pinpointed involvement of the MQM in the deadly fire. The Sindh Rangers report said that Qureshi had heard some people talking about the fire incident. He said the factory was set on fire by MQM men after the owners refused to pay them money. The report was submitted in the court after release of Qureshi from jail in a petty criminal case.

The investigators named Rehman and another key MQM member, Hammad Siddiqui, as prime suspects in the case. Later, the investigation team went abroad to record statements of the factory owners, who had been declared absconders in the fire case by the Supreme Court. After the factory owners recorded their statements, the case of criminal negligence against them was converted into a criminal case. It is worth mentioning here that previous investigations showed that factory workers were killed in large numbers due to a lack of emergency exits and a fire extinguishing system.

The owners of Ali Enterprises, Arshad and Shahid (Bhaila brothers), were held responsible for negligence and liable to compensate the families of the 259 workers who were killed in the fire. They had recorded their statements to a police team headed by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Sultan Khawaja and DIG Munir Shaikh and shifted the liability. They had said that the fire was not accidental and extortionists were behind the incident.

A police official said on condition of anonymity that investigators were unable to find any tangible evidence against the accused, but they established that factory owners’ refusal to meet extortionists’ demand angered them and they set the factory ablaze.

SSP Akhtar Farooq said that a JIT must be constituted to interrogate the first key suspect of the Baldia factory fire. He said that Rehman’s arrest would help in the arrest of his accomplices in this case. He described it as an achievement of the police and expressed the hope that the case would be resolved soon.

Interpol and Thai police personnel had arrested Bhola at a hotel. An FIA team consisting of Deputy Director Badar Baloch and Inspector Rehmatullah Domki had gone to Thailand on Sunday to bring Rehman back to Pakistan.

The FIA team and the Pakistani High Commission in Bangkok completed the formalities before taking Rehman into custody and finally bringing him back to Pakistan.

The FIA would produce the accused in an anti-terrorism court today (Wednesday). He would be handed over to police for further investigation.

Rehman, who was a member of the MQM until recently, has reportedly joined the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP). His family says he has been implicated in the case by the law enforcement agencies due to his political affiliation.