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The Supreme Court on Sunday said that if the owners of water tankers in Karachi hold a strike, it is the court's responsibility to deal with the matter.

"If a strike is observed, we know how to deal with them," a three-judge bench of the apex court remarked referring to the water tanker owners. "It is our responsibility."

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, was hearing the constitutional petition filed by Shahab Usto, a concerned citizen and lawyer, at the apex court's Karachi registry. The case was filed against the provincial government’s failure to provide potable water, better sanitation, environment and associated issues.

In an unprecedented move, the chief justice had fixed the hearing of public welfare cases for Sunday at the Karachi Registry.

"Give me a deadline for when the matter of dirty drinking water will be resolved," the chief justice said during the hearing, while addressing Managing Director (MD) Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) Hashim Raza Zaidi.

Read: Lack of drinking water

"When will the sewerage water be treated and made available?" CJ Nisar asked. "Water is available in Karachi but is sold to the people through tankers."

Fahim Zaman, an activist and former administrator of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, told the bench that 250 hydrants are operating in Karachi.

"No matter how old the lines, they can be repaired using modern technology in a short amount of time," he added.

"The solutions to these problems must be presented to us," the chief justice said. "The sale of water through tankers needs to end."

Karachi mayor promises to fully cooperate

Appearing before the court during Sunday's hearing, Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar said that there were a number of problems in the city of Karachi.

Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar arrives at Supreme Court's Karachi Registry.─DawnNews
Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar arrives at Supreme Court's Karachi Registry.─DawnNews

"The water board's system is poor. Electricity is running on electric rings. The drains have been occupied," he said.

"You have been running a government in this city — it is your responsibility to solve the problems," the chief justice told the mayor.

"We want your support [in solving the city's problems], not for your political gains but for the welfare of the people," he added. "Tell me the solution."

"Put politics aside and help find a solution to the problem," CJ Nisar urged the mayor. "I believe that there will be a development in three months."

The mayor promised to fully cooperate.

Speaking to the media after the hearing, Mayor Akhtar said that it appears the problem of drinking water in the city would be resolved now that the chief justice has taken notice.

"The government's job is being done by the court," he said. "The court has asked me for suggestions in solving the matter. I will start working on this from Monday." The mayor added that in a week, he will file a report before the court regarding drinking water in the city.

The court ordered Sindh government to submit a comprehensive plan to the water board in 15 days.

"The plan should reflect clearly how the problem will be solved," the chief justice said.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal had appeared before the Supreme Court during a hearing in December last year.

The court had directed Shah to appear in court, saying the provincial government’s “satisfactory reply” on the issue of provision of clean drinking water and safe environment was not forthcoming.

"Our objective is only to rid people of this polluted water," the chief justice had said in the last hearing.