Interpol arrest Karachi fire suspect in Bangkok
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Interpol on Friday evening arrested Abdul 'Bhola' Rehman in Bangkok, Thailand. Rehman, 46, is accused of starting a 2012 garment factory fire in Karachi, Pakistan that killed over 250.
Initially thought to be accidental, the fire is now believed to have been set deliberately by an extortion group targeting the factory's owners. Rehman is accused of receiving an order to start the fire. He is expected to be extradited to Pakistan where he is facing charges under terrorism legislation.
The Pakistani Interior Ministry was ordered by a court to arrest Rehman and another suspect, Hammad Siddiqui, with assistance from Interpol. A third accused, Zubair alias Lala, is detained in Pakistan. Around a dozen further suspects are under investigation.
The Ali Enterprises factory fire in Karachi's Baldia Town area was among the worst industrial disasters in Pakistan. A judicial enquiry found insufficient emergency exits, insufficient safety training, overcrowding due to bulky equipment, and insufficient regulatory oversight all contributed. German firm KIK, the facility's main customer, paid compensation to victims.
Once facing now-abandoned murder charges, the factory's owners are now being treated as witnesses. Papers lodged before Sindh High Court in February last year suggested an extortion plot. A reinvestigation commenced the following month, and earlier this year police confirmed they too believed an extortion gang to be responsible.
Rehman was arrested at the Royal Garden Home Hotel, where he was staying alone. He is alleged by some reporters to have connections with the Pakistani Pak Sarzameen Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement, something both organisations deny. He is also alleged to have worked for Karachi's local government.
Rehman's wife said he was innocent.
- "Wife claims Baldia factory fire suspect is innocent" — Samaa TV, December 3, 2016
- Zeeshan Shah. "Key Baldia factory fire accused arrested in Thailand" — Geo, December 3, 2016
- INP. "Baldia factory fire wanted frontman ‘Bhola’ arrested in Bangkok" — Pakistan Today, December 3, 2016