Pakistan’s Anti–Terrorism Court on Tuesday sentenced two political activists to death for committing a deadly 2012 arson attack that killed more than 260 garment factory workers. The court found both activists guilty of extortion and found that they set the Ali Enterprise factory ablaze after factory owners refused to cede the activists’ monetary demands.
The court issued a death sentence to Rehman Bhola and Zibair Chariya, both members of Muttahida Qaumi Movement–Pakistan (MQM–P)—a political party and part of the ruling coalition. Of the eight individuals accused, the court acquitted four and found the other four complicit. MQM–P leader Rauf Siddiqui was among the acquitted.
Over an eight-year period, more than 400 witnesses issued statements in 171 separate hearings. Though individual members of MQM–P were named parties in the case, MQM–P leaders deny any involvement with the arson attack and instead say that directives likely came from abroad. Noteworthy MQM–P leaders living abroad include founding member Altaf Hussein, who now lives in exile as a British citizen. The party claims to have cut all ties with Hussein.
MQM–P is split into two main factions—one run by Hussein from overseas, and the other by Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui based in Pakistan—and continues to face controversy surrounding its leadership.