KARACHI: Expressing extreme displeasure over supply of contaminated drinking water to residents of the province, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday asserted that the court will intervene to resolve water-related issues in Sindh and Punjab before upcoming General Elections.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan gave these remarks while hearing a petition seeking directives for the provincial government to provide potable water and safe environment in the province. Headed by the chief justice, a four-judge bench – comprising Justice Umar Atta Bandial, Justice Faisal Arab, and Justice Sajjad Shah – was hearing the case at the apex court’s Karachi registry.
At outset of court proceedings today, Justice Saqib remarked that it was due responsibility of authorities concerned to provide the citizens with potable water in the province.
“The court is determined to ensure provision of safe drinking water to residents and for which the court could extend hearing till night or issue contempt notices to the respondents,” he said.
Expressing annoyance over the provincial government’s ineffective measures to tackle drinking water issues, the CJP said the judiciary has also take up the issue in Punjab.
“Contaminated water is being released into the rivers, which is the ultimate source of drinking water,” the CJP noted.
The CJP was irked by the Sindh government’s inaction on issues of water pollution.
“The water commission submitted a report to the Sindh government but no action has been taken so far,” he pointed out.
CJP Nisar clarified that there would be no compromise on air and water pollution issue as this was a matter of the lives of people.
He asked Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to appear before the court for second time and give a timeframe for resolving the prevailing water issues in the province.
He also sought an explanation from attorney general of Sindh to inform the court about measures that have been taken after last hearing on December 5.
“We want a time-frame on court’s affidavit by authorities,” he said.
He said the court has the authority and power to pass an order under Article 240 of the constitution against officials who breached their undertaking, to make operational treatment and filtration plants, given before the court.
At the last hearing on Dec 6, the CJP asked Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to ensure provision of potable water to residents of the province, besides taking measures for safe environment.
The chief minister was summoned to explain the measures his government has taken to ensure provision of safe drinking water, better environment and sanitation facilities to citizens, besides former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal to provide details of various projects that were undertaken by the provincial government in his tenure as the city mayor.
During the hearing at the apex court’s Karachi registry, CJP Nisar offered the CM to use the court’s shoulder to resolve the issues, saying it was the strong one.
“We were elected by votes of the people, therefore, ours are the stronger shoulders,” Shah quipped.
He conceded that the North Sindh Urban Services Corporation (NSUSC), which was set up to lift garbage from urban cities of the province, was not a workable project.
Did the government fix the responsibility for its failure, the CJP asked. When the CM failed to come up with satisfactory reply, he said how shameful it was that no one was held responsible for that.
“The reason behind summoning you to the court is to make you realise the gravity of the issue,” he observed and asked the CM to suggest a solution of the problems and give a written undertaking, outlining the time frame for mitigating water woes.
Shah told the judges that he was already concerned about the issue of water.
“I am seeing smile on the faces of the people on this statement of yours,” the chief justice remarked.
He said this matter relates to the fundamental rights of the people and the court was empowered to step in if the executive authorities failed to live up to their responsibilities.
Meanwhile, the bench directed the chief minister to conduct a probe into the allotment of the 50 acres of the land reserved for Mehmoodabad treatment plant for residential purposes
Advocate Shahab Usto had moved the court against the failure of the provincial government to provide potable water, better sanitation and environment to citizens.
The apex court had earlier constituted a judicial commission, headed by Justice Iqbal Kalhoro of the Sindh High Court, to probe failure of the government in providing safe water to the people of the province.