KARACHI: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar made history by holding a hearing into the high-profile case relating to non-supply of potable drinking water and sanitation in Sindh at the Supreme Court’s Karachi Registry on Sunday – a weekly holiday.
A three-judge bench, also comprising justices Faisal Arab and Sajjad Ali Shah, appointed a retired SC judge Justice Amir Hani Muslim as the new head of one-man judicial commission probing into the failure of authorities in providing clean drinking water and sanitation in the province.
At the outset, the top judge thanked the federal and provincial governments’ law officers, officers and others for appearing in court on their weekly off. However, he made it clear that he was not conducting hearing on an off day to seek any publicity.
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Advocate General Barrister Zamir Ghumro requested the bench to separate the matters relating to water and sanitation, and pollution.
However, CJP Nisar asked him to explain as to what action was being taken against the water tankers. He also inquired that when residents were not getting water from pipelines, then how tankers were getting the same.
Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) Managing Director Syed Hashim Raza Zaidi said, “Different projects to meet water shortage are underway at the moment as only some localities have water supply pipelines.”
CJP Nisar inquired as to who was the mayor of Karachi and wondered whether the mayor was aware of the fact that residents were not receiving water. He ordered to call the mayor.
Justice Shah inquired from Zaidi as to what steps were being taken to stop sewage from mixing with drinking water.
Zaidi replied that the Clifton locality did not fall under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan corporation.
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The chief justice remarked that he was unable to understand where these tankers were getting water from.
Zaidi replied that there was no difference in demand and supply.
Making indirect reference to the real estate tycoon and philanthropist Malik Riaz’s residential project, Justice Shah remarked that major water share was being taken away by the ‘philanthropists’. He further remarked that a common man could not afford potable water at Rs4,000 per tanker.
Coming down hard on the KWSB MD and other officials, CJP Nisar remarked: “You should fear Allah. What kind of government is this, selling water to residents? Even blessings like water and air have been snatched. No one cares about the poor.”
He made it clear to the concerned authorities that “the court will solve the problem”.
“Everyone should get water,” the CJP said. “Tankers will be shut down at any cost.”
He told the KWSB MD to resign if he was not able to resolve the people’s problems regarding water shortage.
“Fulfil your obligations or quit,” remarked CJP Nisar, asking the water utility’s chief to inform the court about the hurdles. “We will deal with the tanker mafia,” he added.
Former administrator Faheem-uz-Zaman claimed that 150 illegal water hydrants were still operating in the city and highly influential people were in cahoots with the tanker mafia.
Petitioner Shahab Usto had proposed appointing Justice (retd) Muslim as the new head of the one-man judicial commission in place of Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro of the Sindh High Court.
The apex court also conferred powers of the judge of high court on Justice (retd) Muslim to conduct proceedings for implementation of the SC orders.
The appointment of the retired judge visibly upset the advocate general and all other provincial government officers present in the courtroom.
CJP Nisar asked AG Ghumro as to why he was upset, which led to a blast of laughter in the courtroom.
The bench directed Sindh Chief Secretary Muhammad Rizwan Memon to provide security and other facilities to the judicial commission’s head in accordance with the law.
The bench also directed Memon to ensure supply of uninterrupted electricity to the water schemes.
The chief justice said first time in the history of the country the Supreme Court was working on its day off. “We want to correct things in six months,” he told the chief secretary.
Addressing the provincial government officials, the top judge said: “We will not let the work stop. We will even donate our salary to keep the schemes running in case the Sindh government falls short of funds.”
The bench also directed Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar to submit within one week his suggestions on how to resolve the issues related to shortage of potable drinking water and sanitation in the city.
Adjourning the matter for two weeks, CJP Nisar said the next hearing will also be conducted on Saturday and Sunday – both days when no judicial work is done in courtrooms.