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Pakistan: Following anti-terrorism court judgment, the fight goes on for Ali Enterprises factory fire victims

"Eight years after the Ali Enterprises factory fire in Pakistan, victims and their families are still fighting for justice", 19 October 2020.

On 22 September 2020, almost exactly eight years after Pakistan’s worst industrial fire officially killed 264 garments workers and injured over 60 others in the commercial capital of Karachi, an anti-terrorism court sentenced two men to hang for arson.

But for Saeeda Khatoon, chairperson of the Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association (AEFFAA), an organisation made up of some of the survivors of the fire as well as the families of its victims, the verdict was a “mockery of justice”.

Khatoon, who lost her only son, 18-year-old Aijaz Ahmed in the inferno at Ali Enterprises on 11 September 2012, a four-storey garment factory whose main client was the German budget clothing store KiK, tells Equal Times : “I had little hope that the courts would serve punishment on the factory’s owners, who were the ones responsible for the 260 deaths because of lax safety standards.” Still, the verdict was a huge blow for the families, survivors and supporters who have waited eight years for justice...

Of the eight other people accused in the case, four factory guards were given life sentences for the part they played in the deaths by locking the factory doors...

“Only the lower tier of perpetrators were punished while the factory owners have been provided a systematic escape,” says Khatoon. “The main question was not whether it was arson or an accidental fire, but the whole point was that a proper fire fighting system was not installed at the factory.”...

Mirjam van Heugten, public outreach coordinator at the Clean Clothes Campaign...says the terrorism verdict was flawed. “All the victims could have been saved if not for the blocked doors, the barred windows and the failure of the audit industry,” she tells Equal Times...

For Heugten from the Clean Clothes Campaign “it is high time that multinational companies are held legally accountable for their behaviour in their supply chains, including attention for factory safety which is still very much lacking in Pakistan up to this day. This could be through mandatory human rights due diligence...

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