A court has ruled that Pakistan’s deadliest industrial fire, which killed over 260 factory workers in 2012, was a case of arson and not an accident, as it sentenced two men to death.
The Anti-Terrorism Court found on Tuesday that the men, formerly members of the Muttahida Quami Movement party (MQM), set the building ablaze because of the garment factory owners had not paid them extortion money.
The blaze in Ali Enterprise, a multi-story unit for ready-made garments manufacturing in the southern city of Karachi, sent shockwaves through the country as survivors told stories of people trapped in the factory because the building’s doors were locked.
In July, a joint investigative report said the fire was not an accident but a “planned sabotage” and a “terrorism act” carried out over non-payment of Rs 200 million ($1.2m) in extortion money and profits.
The incident is considered arguably the worst industrial tragedy in Pakistan’s history.
The fire killed some 260 garment workers and seriously injured dozens more. In the years since the incident, the victims have faced delays in receiving compensation, and now there are reports that the factory owners have fled Pakistan.
Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation, as people caught in the basement were unable to escape when it filled with smoke.
The blaze broke out when people in the building were trying to start a generator after the electricity went out. Sparks from the generator made contact with chemicals used to make shoes, igniting the fire.