Uzair Baloch a spy, Baldia fire a terror incident: JIT

Baloch and his gang was involved in a large number of murders

Karachi              -           Alleged Lyari gang warfare kingpin Uzair Jan Baloch passed on secret information regarding Pakistan Army installations to the Iranian intelligence and was behind a large number of targeted killings and politically motivated murders of rival gangsters and civilians whereas Baldia factory fire was a terror incident.

These were among a host of revelations that came to light on Monday evening as the Sindh government made public the joint investigation team (JIT) reports of three high-profile cases — concerning Uzair Baloch, the Baldia factory fire incident and former chairman of the Fishermen Cooperative Society Nisar Morai — after much controversy and litigation in courts.

The three JIT reports were uploaded to the website of the Sindh home department and elicited varied responses from different political parties. But the reports were perhaps awaited the most by Federal Minister for Shipping and Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi, a leader of the ruling PTI who had taken the Sindh government to court to make the JIT findings public three years ago, as was apparent from several of his tweets. The six-member JIT formed by the Sindh government in February 2016 to interrogate Baloch, comprising representatives of security and intelligence agencies, unanimously declared him as “black”, finding that Baloch along with his gang members was involved in a large number of murders/target killings of his rivals and innocent citizens including ethnic and “politically motivated killings”.

He also martyred several police and Rangers personnel and attacked police stations. In total, Baloch “confessed” to killing 198 people on ethnic and political grounds and owing to gang-war rivalry, according to the report.

Another revelation in the report was regarding Baloch’s alleged espionage activities. Baloch disclosed that he obtained a fake birth certificate of Iran in the late 1980s with the help of his aunt, who was a dual Pakistan-Iranian citizen, and in 2006 managed to obtain his Iranian identity card and passport.

In 2014, when Baloch was residing with a friend in the Iranian port city of Chabahar, one Haji Nasir offered to arrange a meeting between Baloch and Iranian intelligence officers. A meeting with one such intelligence officer was subsequently arranged in which Baloch “was asked to provide certain information about armed forces officials [...] besides general security environment of the city”, the report said.

“The accused is found involved in espionage activities by providing secret informations/sketches regarding Army installations and officials to foreign agents (Iranian intelligence officers) which is a violation of Official Secrets Act, 1923,” the JIT wrote in its findings.

The JIT said it was “strongly recommended” that Baloch be tried under the Pakistan Army Act for his espionage activities. Last month, Karachi prison authorities had disclosed before an antiterrorism court that a military court had sentenced Baloch to 12 years’ rigorous imprisonment in April this year after convicting him of spying for foreign countries. A different nine-member JIT came to the conclusion that the horrific Baldia factory fire in 2012 was not an accident but a “planned sabotage/terrorist activity” in which 259 workers were burnt alive.

The arson was carried out over the non-payment of Rs200 million extortion and refusal to agree to a partnership in factory profits, the report said.

It held the then head of MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, Hammad Siddiqi, and Rehman Bhola responsible for the tragedy.  The JIT was also critical of the initial police investigation into the case and observed that police dealt with it in an unprofessional manner and in a way that benefited “the offenders” instead of the victims for some “motives and gains”. It said “fear and favour” were the dominating factors in the initial investigation, which affected the “length and breadth” of the police performance.

“The JIT ... strongly recommends introduction of police reforms in order to avoid recurrence of such catastrophic investigative failures in future,” the report said. The investigation team suggested that a fresh first information report (FIR) be filed under terrorism charges against the eight accused, including Hammad Siddiqi.

It also recommended an overhaul of the emergency services structure in Karachi, noting that the rescue services available in the metropolis of nearly 20 million people “are not capable enough to deal with such catastrophes of terrorism and mega accidents”.

Talking to reporters, leaders of different political parties gave a variety of reactions to the JIT reports being made public.  Minister Zaidi termed the revelations “intriguing” and said he would hold a press conference on the matter on Tuesday. “Game on hai! (the game is on!),” he tweeted. Sindh education minister Saeed Ghani said the Uzair Baloch JIT report was “five years old” but Zaidi had “awakened now”. He said the people named in the report had recorded their respective statements.

He said it should be left to the courts to decide who is responsible for the offences mentioned in the reports.

PTI leader Haleem Adil Shaikh claimed that “everyone knew that Uzair Baloch had links with the PPP leadership”. He said it was their demand that the said JITs be made public so that people could know as to what had transpired in Karachi and who was responsible for it.  Dr Farooq Sattar, head of his own faction of the MQM, said JITs had often not been helpful in holding people accountable before courts of law. He apprehended that the JIT reports might have been “tempered” with by now. He also feared the reports might become a source of “media trial”.

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