KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday expressed resentment over local authorities after it was informed that only 14 fire tenders were working in the megacity of Karachi and 30 such vehicles were out of order for the past six months and had not been sent for repairs.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar directed the metropolitan commissioner for maintenance of the fire tenders and summoned him on Dec 8 along with a progress report.
The bench also directed a task force to submit a mechanism about inspection of buildings and industries to ensure that they were following all fire safety measures.
It summoned divisional engineer of the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) over an inordinate delay in restoring the helpline of fire brigade.
When the bench took up a petition seeking implementation of the Building Code of Pakistan and Fire Safety Provisions 2016 across the province, Deputy Controller Shahid Masroor of the Civil Defence Department submitted a reply stating that 80 per cent of the city’s buildings had no emergency exits, fire hydrants and other safety equipment and most of the multistorey buildings had no access for fire vehicles.
While summoning the metropolitan commissioner court orders him to start maintenance of 30 out-of-order fire tenders
He further submitted that the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) should be asked not to issue completion certificate of any commercial or industrial/residential buildings without inspection as under the safety laws and Building Code of Pakistan 2016, the responsibility to issue no-objection certificate was assigned to the civil defence department.
In the last hearing, the bench had also directed the SBCA to submit comments with regard to a mechanism or coordination with the civil defence department for inspection of buildings to ensure safety measures.
However, during Wednesday’s proceedings SBCA’s environment and building services director Nadeem Ahmed submitted that the director general of the authority had assumed charge a couple of days ago and sought further time.
He maintained that in light of the last order, they had made out some draft and the same would be placed before DG for his approval.
Assistant Commissioner Aijaz Hussain Rind also filed comments on behalf of the commissioner office stating that a fire emergency control room had already been established at the commissioner’s office to attend related complaints.
He submitted that they had also approached the chief fire officer (CFO) of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to provide technical officers to run the control room smoothly.
The bench pointed out that one telephone line was not enough to cater to the need of people of Karachi. However, the official assured the bench that more lines would be added and that he would submit a progress report in the next hearing.
KMC’s CFO Mubeen Ahmed informed the bench that fire brigade department was operating 22 control centres in Karachi with only 14 working fire tenders and at least 30 such tenders were out of order for the past six months, but these vehicles had not been sent for maintenance.
The bench observed that it was really an alarming situation that the megacity had to make do with 14 fire tenders only. It asked an assistant advocate general as to who was responsible for the maintenance of fire tenders.
The AAG responded that it was the responsibility of KMC. Thereafter, the bench summoned the metropolitan commissioner to appear in person on Dec 8 and in the meanwhile, he would start maintenance work of 30 fire tenders and submit a progress report.
The CFO further submitted that the helpline “16” was out of order after heavy monsoon rains in the city and a complaint was also lodged with the NTC but to no avail.
The bench put the NTC’s divisional engineer in Karachi on notice with direction to ensure his presence on the next hearing.
Additional commissioners (I & II) Junaid Iqbal and Dr Waqas Roshan also appeared and informed the bench that they were the members of a task force on fire safety along with petitioner Nadeem Shaikh and Mr Masroor of the civil defence.
They further submitted that after the last order, they convened the meeting of the task force and decided some action to be taken by them but the progress report was not available on record.
The bench directed the task force to submit a mechanism as to how they carry out inspection of different buildings and industries/factories to ensure that these establishments were following all fire safety measures.
“There must be some proper procedure for conducting inspection of all such establishments with the help of allied offices in a fair and transparent manner,” the bench concluded.
The petitioner had said that the federal government had introduced by-laws of the Building Code of Pakistan, Fire Safety Provisions 2016, but the provincial government had yet to implement these laws in letter and spirit in Sindh and particularly in the provincial metropolis.
CS given last chance
Another SHC division headed by Justice Nadeem Akhtar has granted a last chance to the Sindh chief secretary to fully comply with its earlier order regarding recruitment of physically challenged persons in different departments.
In compliance with the court’s last order, a compliance report was filed that stated that appointment orders had been issued to 101 petitioners while one petitioner had been recommended for future vacancy in district Badin and his appointment order would also be issued on availability of post.
However, the bench rejected the report and expressed concerns that the responsibility was especially assigned to the chief secretary, but the order was not implemented in letter and spirit as proper reasons had not been given nor speaking orders had been passed in respect of those petitioners whose applications had been rejected.
Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2020