Social contract between State, subjects not being complied with: CJP

Updated Jun 26 2020

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Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed asks why should people listen to government in absence of basic amenities. — SC website/File
Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed asks why should people listen to government in absence of basic amenities. — SC website/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed has regretted that the social contract between the State and its subjects as agreed under the Constitution is not being complied with.

“Please tell us one reason why sho­uld people listen to the government in the absence of basic amenities like water, health, education, employment and now 18-hour-long loadshedding when factories are closed,” bemoaned the CJP on Thursday while heading a five-judge Supreme Court bench hearing a suo motu case relating to measures taken by the federal and provincial governments to combat the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the country.

According to the CJP, the deprivation of the people is imm­ense who have turned old, but still they are waiting to enjoy the fruit of this agreement. Parliament seemed not bothered about this state of affairs, he said, adding that only very few people were real beneficiaries of the fruit of this agreement.

The hapless people of this country had hoped for the change, but no cha­nge was insight, the chief justice regre­tted and expressed wonder about a recent statement of the prime minister in which he described the chief minister of a province as becoming a dictator.

Asks why should people listen to government in absence of basic amenities

Such a situation helped exploiters, the chief justice said, adding that crises of sugar, oil, wheat and medical facilities were coming one after another. Mere statements after statements would not fill the stomach of the people who needed employment, bread and butter, sugar, oil, etc.

Justice Qazi Amin Ahmed, also a member of the bench, regretted that the government had failed to protect the rights of the citizens, deploring that the political discourse had been reduced to mere mud-slinging. Ordinary medical equipment like Oximeter, which used to be available for Rs3,000, is now being sold at Rs25,000. Even Dettol disinfectant has disappeared from the market, while prices of important medicines have gone disproportionately high.

On Thursday, the CJP summoned the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to explain allegations of fake licences by some pilots of different airlines of the country who fly passenger aircraft and thus put the lives of people at stake, a serious offence under the law.

On Wednesday, Minister for Avia­tion Ghulam Sarwar Khan had disclosed in the National Assembly that a large number of commercial pilots possessed dubious flying licences.

The CAA director general is requi­red to furnish a comprehensive report before the Supreme Court within two weeks in this regard and when the case will be taken up again after three weeks, chief executive officers of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), AirBlue and Serene will also appear before the court with reports about the professional qualification of pilots in their respective airlines.

Luxury vehicles

The Supreme Court also restrained the Sindh government from utilising Rs4 billion it earmarked in its annual budget for 2020-21 for importing 400 to 500 luxury vehicles like double-cabin Vigos and Prados.

In its order, the apex court observed that the Sindh government had no justification to put away the funds to buy luxury vehicles when no allocations have been made for any development schemes, particularly for Karachi, although they earmarked another sum of Rs100 billion for non-development expenditures.

“We are at a loss to understand why these vehicles are being imported when they already possessed a large fleet for their employees,” the CJP wondered and referred to Sindh government reports in which it stated that it had no funds for payment of salaries to sanitary workers of WASA Hyderabad for which Rs140 million had to be approved.

In addition, there is a hue and cry that the Sindh government had no funds to clean nullahs in Karachi which might be flooded with the onset of monsoon rains. Moreover, there has been no supply of water to citizens of Karachi, even the electricity is not available to the people of Karachi for 18 long hours — a situation which is playing havoc with the lives of the citizens.

In these circumstances, prima facie, the allocation of Rs4 billion for importing vehicles is not legally justified while seeing on ground realities of life, the order said, adding that the provincial government was required to allocate funds for sectors like health, education, development, etc.

The court clarified that no other province except Sindh had allocated such a hefty amount for vehicles.

During the hearing, the chief justice bemoaned that the Covid-19 pandemic had made many billionaires overnight.

Referring to the import of machines for manufacturing of N-95 masks by Al-Hafiz Pvt Ltd by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the Supreme Court said neither the value of machines was declared nor it was disclosed how much tax, duties or customs were ever paid. If the NDMA is the purchaser of the masks then it should not have facilitated in the first place by arranging charter flights from China for the import of the machinery.

Questioning if such favours extended to other companies, the court said it seemed no such offer was published in newspapers, asking the NDMA to explain why this company alone was given a special favour.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2020