ISLAMABAD/ KARACHI: A ‘regretful’ Sindh government on Monday conceded responsibility for the death of 60 children in the drought-wrecked Tharparkar district within the last three months.
Advocate General Sindh Fateh Muhammad Malik made this avowal before a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court – headed by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani – during a suo motu hearing.
But Malik claimed that the children died due to the severe cold weather and their parents were reluctant to take them to hospital for treatment.
“I agree that the responsible persons should be held accountable,” he said, adding that an investigation team, headed by DIG Hyderabad, was probing into the matter.
Taken aback by Malik’s statement, the bench asked if the Sindh government was blaming the parents for the death of their children.
The bench directed the Sindh government to submit a report on the causes of the prevailing situation in Tharparkar and to fix responsibility. It also sought a detailed action plan to overcome the crisis.
“Our heads are hung in shame,” Justice Jillani said.
He also rejected Malik’s claim that the media was playing up the situation. “This is the media that highlighted the issue otherwise the matter would have been buried,” Justice Jillani said.
Sindh’s top law officer told the bench that 60 children have died in the last three months. Two more children expired on Sunday, he added. “The Sindh chief minister has convened a meeting of his cabinet in Mithi, the headquarters of Tharparkar district, after realising the gravity of situation,” Malik said. The prime minister will also visit the area on Monday (today).
“The people do not need the PM or the CM. They need food,” Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, the other member of the bench, shot back.
Malik told the bench that the Sindh High Court (SHC) has also taken notice of the death of children and the home and health secretaries have furnished details in this regard.
Sindh Home Secretary Mumtaz Ali Shah also appeared before the top court bench and submitted a report on the death of children in Tharparkar.
“One lac and 20 thousand bags of wheat have been distributed among the people in the affected area while 2 lac rupees are given to each family that lost a kid due to starvation,” he added.
The bench will take up the case again on March 17.
Asif Zardari calls meeting
After dozens of child deaths in Thaparkar, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari has convened a meeting in Dubai today (Tuesday), which will be attended by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and other senior members of the party.
Party officials told The Express Tribune that an important decision is expected. “There are chances of reshuffling in some portfolios. The food and relief ministers may be sacked or transferred to other portfolios,” a senior PPP leader said.
“Zardari is annoyed over the performance of the relief and food ministers for their negligence,” one of the provincial cabinet members said adding that massive discrepancies have been found in the distribution of wheat. Moreover, the relief minister has not showed up for the past four days.
The absence of both food and relief ministers was also noticed at the meeting with the prime minister where PML-N leaders pointed out, “Both ministers are absent in this briefing.”
For his part, Sindh Minister for Relief Makhdoom Jamil uz Zaman told The Express Tribune that his father Makhdoom Amin Fahim was not feeling well and he had to accompany him aboard for treatment. “Soon after I returned, I have also fallen ill. The doctors have suggested me not to travel, which is why I could not go to Tharparkar,” he said, adding that he would tender the resignation if party asks for it.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2014.
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