If the Sindh government wants to do something for the people of Karachi, it shouldn’t have any issue with the NDMA cleaning drains in the city, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.
The court was hearing a case on issues in Karachi such as load-shedding, electrocution deaths and clogged drains at the Karachi Registry.
Sindh Advocate-General Salman Talibuddin asked the court to review its earlier order to clean drains in the city and explain it. He said the Sindh government could take over cleaning the drains.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had asked the NDMA to clean the city’s drains and remove the tonnes of garbage blocking the flow of water. Every year, when it rains in Karachi most of the city floods because of the blocked drains.
The city government often washes its hands of the responsibility of cleaning the drains, with Mayor Wasim Akhtar saying he doesn’t have the power or resources to clean the drains and ensure that neighbourhoods aren’t flooded.
Talibuddin showed the court pictures of the drains and said 90% of them are clean. Having the NDMA clean the drains means the Sindh government is completely out, he said.
“Then why are you worried now?” asked Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed. “Yesterday no one said lots of work is going on in Karachi and that Karachi’s drains are clean,” he noted.
On Wednesday, the court gave the NDMA three months to clean Karachi’s drains.
“Seeing pictures of these clean drains has left us shocked,” said Justice Ijazul Ahsan. “Even the sea isn’t this clean.”
It could be that the Sindh government cleaned five or six drains, said Justice Ahmed. “You said yourself there are 514 drains, who knows how many more drains there are in Karachi,” he said.
Justice Ahsan asked what issue the Sindh government had if the NDMA cleaned the drains. The NDMA isn’t a Japanese company, it’s a Pakistani institution, he said.
“If the Sindh government wants to do something for the people, it shouldn’t have any issue with the NDMA cleaning the city’s drains.”
Talibuddin submitted pictures of drains from August 3 and a report from August 11.
Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has assured that by August 30 the drains will be cleaned, he told the court. But Justice Ahmed said the real issue seems to be that the World Bank funds are now in danger. The Bank’s Karachi Neighbourhood Improvement Project is one of the projects it has loaned the Sindh government money for.
“Tomorrow what if the World Bank asks who the NDMA is? They [the Sindh government] have to use the money,” said Justice Ahmed. Tell us what funds were used properly before this, he asked.
“By presenting five pictures what are you trying to prove? Karachi has a population of 35 million,” he told Talibuddin.
The advocate-general asked the court to give the government till August 30 to clean the drains. The local government secretary also presented reports on the progress of the drains’ cleaning.
So far, 50% of the Gujjar Nullah has been cleaned and 20% of the CBM Nullah, according to the report. But if it was cleaned then where did all that water come from, asked the chief justice. He was referring to water that gathered in multiple areas after the recent spell of monsoon rains.
If it rains, there is water, replied Talibuddin.
The court also heard the matter of load-shedding and electrocution deaths in Karachi. “We saw them the day before and yesterday K-Electric cut off power to half of Karachi,” said Justice Ahmed. “Are they in their right minds?”
The K-Electric lawyer argued that the power wasn’t turned off. “People die and they [K-Electric] get bail for Rs50,000 from the high court,” retorted Justice Ahmed.
K-Electric has a monopoly, he said, adding that the people of Karachi are suffering because of this.
Advocate Faisal Siddiqui said if action was initiated against K-Electric earlier, this wouldn’t be an issue today.
They just want to squeeze money out of Karachi, said Justice Ahmed. “What hope do we have of a company whose owner is in jail? Look at the state of our government, they’ve given Karachi to a defaulter company.”
The NEPRA chairman told the court that fines and money mean nothing to K-Electric. Money is very important, replied the chief justice. “When the money comes out of their pockets, then they’ll know.”
K-Electric’s board of directors also tells them this: make money, make profit, said Justice Ahmed. Everything’s dirty, he observed, pointing a finger at PSO and Sui Gas as well.
People don’t have water, power or anywhere to live in Karachi, said Justice Ahmed. But the people in the government are just enjoying themselves, nothing matters to them, he said.
He said K-Electric is also over-billing people. People in shanty towns steal power, that’s why there is load-shedding there, said K-Electric’s lawyer.
PSO hasn’t given us fuel for two months, he claimed. The NEPRA chairman said K-Electric doesn’t have an alternative power generation system.
This is a matter of people’s lives, Justice Ahmed reminded everyone. We will not leave the people at their mercy, he said.
The NEPRA chief said if action is started against K-Electric they get a stay order from the court. Justice Ahsan observed that around the world, regulators do not bring their matters to court.
“Half of Karachi doesn’t have power. Who are they to shut down power supply?” asked Justice Ahmed.
The hearing was adjourned.