Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday observed that though he was recently criticised for visiting Mayo Hospital, he does not care about criticism as it is his duty to ensure that the fundamental rights of the people are protected.
Justice Nisar made the remark while hearing a petition filed by Advocate Shahab Osto in the Supreme Court's Karachi registry against the province's authorities for their alleged failure to provide clean drinking water and environment to the people of Sindh.
"I cannot say what I saw at the Mayo Hospital," the CJP recalled. "I have no interest in becoming a leader, but I will continue to provide masses with fundamental rights," he said, referring to Articles 199 and 184 of the Constitution which allow the courts to step in for the protection of fundamental rights.
Taking on the past and present rulers of the country, he said: "No driver or labourer has ever brought any harm to the country. It is those who have been in power that are responsible for its afflictions."
He recalled that the chief minister Sindh had complained that his hands have been tied by the court, but added that the court "is ready to give him all freedom if he shows any progress."
Karachi receives untreated water
Of the 550 million gallons of water provided to Karachi from Keenjhar Lake everyday, only 260m gallons is treated, Managing Director (MD) Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) Hashim Raza Zaidi informed the SC on Saturday.
Zaidi further said that a proper mechanism to remove bacteria and germs was not available even in the water that is treated. In his briefing in the court, Zaidi also revealed that Rs400 billion have been allocated in the past to clean Karachi's water.
Out of the amount, Rs350 billion were spent on filtration while the remainder went to chlorination and addition of other chemicals, he said.
Zaidi also informed the court that KWSB had received 971 complaints regarding unsafe water, of which 700 had been rectified.
The bench appeared unimpressed with Zaidi's briefing. CJP Nisar remarked that there seems to have been no progress since the Sindh Water Commission began its investigation nine months ago.
"If I do not fulfil my responsibilities as the chief justice, I have no right to remain at my position," the CJP remarked, asking the MD KWSB to explain why he should remain on his position.
He also asked Zaidi what action was taken against those involved in water theft from within the board.
The CJP also inquired about the progress on the Greater Karachi Sewerage Plan, commonly known as S-III, which is scheduled to begin operations in January 2018 according to an undertaking submitted in the court by Rizwan Memon, the provincial chief secretary.
The chief secretary informed the court that completion of Treatment Plant-III (TP-III), a part of S-III, would require three to four more months as civil work on the project was in the last stages, while machinery had been installed.
The CJP asked whether contempt proceedings should be initiated against the chief secretary as he had not been able to get the work completed on time according to his commitment to the court.
"Officials working on the project should have been demoted for the delay," he remarked.
Justice Faisal Arab also observed that the initial cost of the S-III project was, Rs8 billion which had since risen to Rs48bn.
Earlier this month, the court had reprimanded Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah while hearing the same case.
"Shah sahib, rid the lives of Karachiites from [water] tankers," the CJP had urged the chief minister.
SC orders action against 'tanker mafia'
The CJP also ordered the province's chief secretary to ensure an end to the "tanker mafia" in Karachi within two months and before General Elections 2018.
"This is about the lives of our children." Justice Saqib Nisar said, adding that the SC was the custodian of fundamental rights of citizens and would not allow for them to be taken away.
"Is it not the right of Karachi's citizens to get clean water?" he asked, at which Memon responded that things could improve if everyone worked diligently.
"We will work on Sundays as well if we have to," the CJP responded, asking Memon to ensure the provision of safe drinking water. "We will not leave this matter incomplete even if we have to sit until midnight."
The hearing of the cases were adjourned until next month.