Deadly Pakistan factory fires blamed on labor laws

Featured - September 13th, 2012
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Huge fires that ravaged two factories in Pakistan, killing almost 300 people, ignited bitter criticism of the country’s deep-seated labor law problems.

A garment factory in the commercial capital of Karachi and a shoe manufacturer in Lahore went up in flames Tuesday night. According to reports, a boiler exploded in the Karachi factory where 258 people were burned to death after being trapped behind locked emergency exits and barred windows. 31 people were injured. The factory owner had allegedly locked all exit doors due to recent thefts.

Roshan Ali Sheikh, a top government official in Karachi, told the Wall Street Journal: “It is a criminal act to lock emergency exit doors.”

“There were no safety measures taken in the building design. There was no emergency exit. These people were trapped,” Senior police official Amir Farooqi said. Police said they are currently searching for the factory’s managers and have blacklisted the owner so that he will not be able to leave the country.

A shoe factory in Lahore was set ablaze by a generator, killing 25 people. The generator blocked the only exit and firefighters had to knock down the building’s walls to save people.

Raza Rumi, an analyst at the Islamabad-based Jinnah Institute said the industrial fires were “reflective of the utter collapse of regulation and the enforcement of labor laws in the country”. According to the Financial Times, a provincial minister ordered an inspection of all factories and industrial plants in Sindh province within 48 hours.