The Supreme Court on Tuesday came down hard on the Sindh government, municipal authorities and K-Electric, the primary supplier of electricity to Karachi, over the deaths of dozens of people due to electrocution during recent rains in the metropolis.
A three-judge larger bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed was hearing a number of applications regarding various civic issues in Karachi at the apex court’s Karachi registry. Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah were the other members of the bench.
Justice Arab during the hearing noted that 22 children had died after suffering electric shocks during the recent rains in Karachi and other parts of Sindh but that the deaths had had no impact on the power utility.
“Why were the electricity providers not grabbed by the collar over these many deaths?” Justice Ahmed asked the top Sindh law officer.
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“Action has been taken against K-Electric,” the Sindh advocate general responded.
But the bench remained unconvinced, with Justice Ahmed wondering what alternative the city would have if the Abraaj Group, which holds stakes in K-Electric, forgoes the company.
“For Abraaj Group, K-Electric is the goose that lays the golden egg,” the judge remarked, adding that with the exception of K-Electric, all of Abraaj’s departments have collapsed.
He said K-Electric “makes a profit of Rs50 million in exchange for five paisas”. The company also “sold all the copper wires” and replaced them with aluminium cables, Justice Ahmed added.
“Did anyone ever carry out an audit of K-Electric?,” the judge said, wondering again what alternative plan authorities had for power supply to Karachi.
He also asked the provincial authorities why they had not hesitated at handing over “such a sensitive [power supply] system to a foreign company.
“K-Electric did not deliver anything,” Justice Ahmed remarked, regretting that the entire infrastructure of the megacity had been “ruined”.
Justice Arab observed that people usually do not die from electrocution in any modern city.
In an apparent reference to Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar and Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Justice Ahmed said that he had seen “some people enjoying sipping tea at Cafe Piyala” during the Karachi rain.
“Some people only found out how many people had died of electrocution while sitting in their office,” the judge added, without naming anyone.
“The Karachi mayor kept himself shielded from rainwater by wearing a raincoat while the people around him kept getting drenched.”
Justice Ahmed further said that Karachi’s authorities and the Sindh government had “completely failed” to fulfil their responsibilities.
He noted that the federal government has now taken up the task of cleaning Karachi.
“Do you realise what will happen if the federal government too fails [to complete the task]?” the judge asked the provincial law officer, before answering the question himself: “The people are watching everything. You don’t realise what impact this will have.”