LAHORE, Pakistan — As the focus shifted to the violent demonstrations by Islamic student groups taking place in Karachi Sunday and Monday, condemning the video allegedly defaming the prophet Muhammad, the deadly factory fire in a jeans plant in Karachi last week got relegated to the background.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Sunday that terrorism may be responsible for the fire.
The factory was not even registered under the 1934 Factories Act, according to the Sindh Ministry of Labour report, so how could it even have been inspected, government officials questioned. Earlier, Sindh Minister of Labour Ameer Nawab, who resigned last week, said Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah himself had stopped him from inspecting factories violating labor rules.
Okay Men stonewashed jeans, a German brand, were being made in the factory the day of the fire, as the jeans were found strewn about in the carnage.
In addition to fire safety regulations that were broken in the factory, it has been reported by The New York Times that many of those who died were under 18, worked 12-hour shifts and earned $58 a month, only a third of the minimum wage here. Upon visits from foreign buyers or their auditors, the workers were asked to lie to them about working conditions, according to reports.
Ali Enterprises was heavily underinsured by two small insurance companies, Reliance Insurance and Premier Insurance, and, at most, can receive only $85,000 for destruction of the plant and machinery. The insurance coverage did not include employees, sabotage or terrorism. Since the company took out bank loans, the banks will receive the insurance money first if it is released. Deceased employees’ families will only receive $2,100 from the company, under Pakistan labor laws.