When there is a roving and sharp eyed chief justice (CJ) in the neighbourhood it is best to stick to the facts; and CJ Mian Saqib Nisar was in no mood for equivocation on Thursday, April 19th. He was hearing a suo-motu case regarding the provision of civic facilities in Peshawar, and he was not pleased to be told that medical waste was disposed of by dumping it in one of the several canals that pass through the city. The chief secretary confirmed that there were 1,100 points where waste was dumped directly into the canals. Regular garbage, other than medical waste, is taken to a site outside the city “and just rests there” again according to the chief secretary.
These admissions are both startling and deeply troubling. Medical waste is invariably contaminated and contact with it brings a range of risks. Regular untreated waste is a vector for disease. Peshawar and its environs are open to elevated levels of risk to public health due to what amounts to a gross dereliction of duty. The K-P government is currently in the hands of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the CJ took it to task for “poor governance” and a failure to ensure “even basic human rights”.
Chief Minister Pervez Khattak was hauled before the bench and questioned. He was asked how many hospitals his government had built likewise new schools, both in relation to the expanding population of the city. The CM explained that his government was trying to reform existing systems rather than build new structures. It is painfully obvious that the CM and his government have fallen short in their aspirations and the CJ lamented a lack of expansion in infrastructure, adding that he had seen no improvement in the hospitals either — and herein lies the rub. Politicians are ever fond of telling all and sundry just how well they are doing and gilding the lily of their achievements. As in this instance they are often found to be economical with the truth. The CJ lifted the corner of the carpet exposing what was beneath. Long may he continue to do so.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2018.
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