The Sindh High Court (SHC) has ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to conduct an inquiry against the Hyderabad Development Authority (HDA), Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) and Qasimabad Municipal Committee (QMC). The bench of Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice Amjad Ali Sahito also directed the NAB on Tuesday to submit the report of the ongoing inquiry against the HDA and its officials on September 2.
The bench, which was hearing the petition of advocate Sajjad Chandio, who is also the president of Awami Tehreek, directed WASA to immediately set up a complaint centre and publicise contact numbers. The bench asked the officials of WASA and QMC to explain why despite the court’s earlier order to drain the rainwater, many localities still remain partially submerged while squalid conditions still exist in a vast number of areas.
Although the officials submitted progress reports, the court expressed utter dissatisfaction observing that the ground realities depicted a different picture. The petitioner also submitted photographs of many residential localities which were taken on early Tuesday morning to contradict claims of the municipal authorities.
“Neighbourhoods, parks and graveyards are still under water even after 23 days of July 29 rainfall,” said advocate Chandio. The bench also took notice of the absence of QMC Chairperson Kashiri Shoro, who is a brother of former Sindh local government minister and MPA Jam Khan Shoro, who is also facing a NAB inquiry.
Advocate Chandio argued that government officials hire lawyers who are office bearers of bar associations in order to take relief from courts. He told the court that its August 1 order for appointment of a permanent director general of HDA within two days has still not been complied with. “The court had also ordered immediate action against illegal car service stations but the officials have flouted that order as well,” he added.
The bench questioned WASA Managing Director Saleemuddin Arain to explain why rainwater from parks and graveyards could not be drained so far. Arain replied that the parks and graveyards fall in the jurisdiction of the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and QMC. The MD said WASA charged Rs10,000 to Rs15,000 in utility bills from the car service stations.
Advocate Ayaz Tunio, the counsel of WASA MD, apprised the court that there is no criteria or rules for issuance of permits or licences to car wash stations. “He, however, hasn’t been able to explain as to what is the criteria or formula of fixing the tariff of the stations,” the bench observed. SHC asked the lawyer to explain to the court at the next date of hearing why no licencing mechanism for the stations has been devised by WASA and that why a mushroom growth of such stations has occurred in Hyderabad.
“We have also seen that so far nothing has been done for installation of water meters for commercial consumers…apparently no efforts to formulate a plan for recycling of water at the car wash has been undertaken,” the bench noted, adding that its previous orders in that regard have not been complied by WASA.
The bench also observed that WASA has been unable to justify the expenditures of Rs4.16 billion, which it received from the Sindh government over the years. Advocate Imdad Ali Unar, the counsel of QMC, told the court that the Sindh local government department transferred QMC’s functions of drainage to WASA in April, 2016. He added the QMC only collected garbage and dumped it on an empty plot outside the Qasimabad Sports Complex, which is the only sports facility in town.
The hearing was adjourned till September 2 when NAB will have to submit a report about the ongoing investigations against the relevant authorities. The court also directed NAB to investigate the income and expenditures of these organisations.