Baldia Town factory fire victims still without compensation

Despite repeated appeals by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), families and garment workers affected by the fire, and trade unions, the government, judicial commission and concerned authorities are still not paying attention to the demands of the victims’ families.

During a blaze at Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia Town, Karachi, on September 11, 2012, 259 workers were burned to death.  The affected families are still waiting for compensation.

During a press conference at Karachi Press Club held by National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and the families of the workers, Nasir Mansoor, Deputy General Secretary of NTUF, called the Baldia Town fire incident one of the worst in the history of Pakistan.

Despite several requests, the government and other institutions have failed to improve working conditions in factories and mills. A large number of workers in different sectors are compelled to work in hazardous environments where they risk their lives.

Following the ill advancement in the cases and hue and cry of the victims' families, a delegate of ILO visited them to register four cases against the German buyer of Ali Enterprises and the licensing companies.

Families at the press conference were desperate, continuing to demand that all parties for the incident be held properly responsible.

Talking to Daily Times, Muhammad Jabbir, the 22-year-old son of Muhammad Jahanzeeb who died during the fire, and the organiser of Factory Affectees Association expressed his grief. “It is ironic a factory doing business with international client without registration and proper safety environment while the government and officials were turning a blind eye.”

Despite the verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the labour contract system was still in progress, which was the root cause of such mishaps, he added.

Din Muhammad, a resident of Baldia Town sector 9 and father of Abid Ali, another worker who burned to death, was disappointed with the response of the government and judiciary. However, he was a bit hopeful after ILO showed interest in the matter. He said the families had nothing left except to protest.

Citing an example in which families of factory workers in Bangladesh received compensation, he asked why the same thing was not being done to them.

Saeeda Khatoon, wife of Ilyas Ahmed, a resident of Orangi Town, lost her 18- year old son Ijaaz Ahmed. She said they have not received any support from the government.

On the second anniversary of the incident, three major trade unions of Germany along with German Parliament members, writers, intellectuals, artists and social workers issued a joint appeal to save the lives of factory workers and ensure their basic rights.

The appeal extends to the legal and financial assistance for the heirs of workers killed in the Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh and at Ali Enterprises in Pakistan.

Read more from Nasir Mansoor, Deputy General Secretary, National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) of Pakistan.

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