KARACHI, April 17: Samples collected from the Tahir Plaza crime scene of arson have been sent for a chemical analysis by police, it has been learnt.
If tests are carried out fairly, the results may help ascertain the nature of the inflammable material used in the arson attacks on April 9, a senior police officer said.
Nine people were killed, six of them burnt to death, in acts of arson and killing committed on April 9 following a clash between two groups of lawyers on the premises of the City Courts.
Police have failed to arrest any of the arsonists, neither at the crime scene nor in the limits of the Risala and Preedy police stations, where most of the damage was done.
The incidents coincided with a session of the newly-elected Sindh assembly, where a sizable strength of police force was deployed on security duties.
On April 9, only two suspects were rounded up by police in the Ferozabad police limits. The two did not have any party affiliation but were in possession of TT pistols, a police officer said.
However, sources said the two suspects did have political affiliation and were forcing closure of markets in the Society area.
Police said the suspects were not in any way related with the April 9 violence. “They happened to be carrying pistols and got arrested on that particular day,” said a senior police officer.
As many as 14 FIRs were registered in connection with the incidents of April 9 at six different police stations. Fourteen FIRs pertained to four murders, seven were in connection with rioting and two about a robbery.
Well-placed sources in the police department told Dawn that Risala and Preedy police did round up several arsonists on April 9, but they soon released the suspects.
“We have sent the samples collected from the gutted rooms of the Tahir Plaza for a chemical analysis to the office of the Chemical Examiner, but one cannot rely on the results issued by that lab,” an officer said.
Six persons, including two women, were burnt alive in the sixth-floor office of Advocate Altaf Abbasi, who was also killed in the arson.
A subsequent FIR (78/2008) was registered at the Risala police station under Sections 147/148/149/324/302 R/W 7A ATA. The FIR was lodged on behalf of the state by Sub-Inspector Waheed Iqbal of the Risala police station.
The six victims, who happened to be in Room 616 of Tahir Plaza on that day were later identified as Advocate Aftab Abbasi, Syed Dawar Ali Rizvi, Syed Danish Akhtar, Basit Mehmood, Razia Batool and Sobia Raza.
Eyewitness accounts of April 9 suggested that conventional methods of arson were not employed on that particular day, rather the arsonist used powder or some liquid for setting fire to around 50 vehicles and for torching the plaza.
Faculty member of Karachi University’s chemistry department Dr Nasiruddin told Dawn that there were many chemical compounds available in the market which could be used in arson where the conventional method of petrol was not required.
He said if a liquid was used in arson, it could be a combination of a flammable solvent and white phosphorus. If only powder was used, a combination of any compound with white phosphorus or only white phosphorus was enough to ignite a fire, Dr Nasiruddin explained.
A senior police officer, seeking anonymity, told Dawn that the Board of Revenue office fire was also caused by the same type of power or chemical.
An inquiry report has already suggested that the fire was deliberate and was not accidental.
Out of the 14 FIRs, there are eight in which the complainants have stated the number of attackers involved in the arson attacks or robbery.
In FIR 204/2008 under Section 147,148,149, 435 and 324 at Preedy police station in which minibuses (PE-3336 and PE-6076) were involved, the complainants stated that 10 to 12 unknown men set fire to their vehicles.
In FIR 77/2008 under Sections 147, 148, 149, 435 and 427, registered at the Risala police station for nine vehicles, complainant Sub-Inspector Idress Bangash stated that the arson was carried out by 30 to 35 persons.
In another FIR, however, the number of suspects in arson attacks varied from 20 to 25, 15 to 20, 10 to 12, 8 to 10, and so on.
The FIR which specified the number of attackers suggested that the attackers were working in organized groups on April 9, said a police officer.“It’s not for the first time that such techniques have been used in arson. In the events following the death of Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27 last year such combustible compounds were used in arson attacks,” he added.