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Water issue now a top priority says CJ

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday took suo motu notice of water shortage and its lack of supply throughout the country.

On June 7, the Supreme Court will hear cases regarding water shortage in the capital, while the apex court’s Karachi and Lahore registries will hold hearings on June 9 and 10, respectively. The chief justice will also hear cases related to water issues in the Peshawar and Quetta registries.

The SC issued notices to top officials from the Capital Administration and Development Division as well as the attorney general, advocate general, and others, and demanded an explanation regarding the water shortage in the capital.

Justice Nisar was heading a three-member SC bench that was hearing a 20-year-old petition filed by Barrister Zafarullah, a senior lawyer from Lahore, concerning the Kalabagh dam. He had argued that 20 per cent of Pakistan’s growth rate depended on water supply, yet no dam had been built in the country for the past 48 years.

The CJ replied that water shortage is now the “top priority” of the court and took a suo motu notice of the matter. Justice Sardar Tariq Masood regretted that none of the political parties had taken the water issue seriously enough to include it in their manifestos.

Expressing concern over the dam built on the Kishanganga River by India as part of its Kishanganga hydropower plant project, the chief justice said that the Neelum River, which is a tributary of the Indian river, has dried up.

“What have we done for our children if we can’t even provide them water?” he remarked.
Furthermore, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday reiterated that the general elections 2018 will be held on time, adding that restoring the old nomination forms could cause a delay in the upcoming polls.

The chief justice passed these remarks while hearing a petition filed by the Awami Workers Party (AWP) on electoral reforms.

On June 1, the Lahore High Court had ruled that the nomination form to be submitted by candidates for upcoming general elections does not include mandatory information and declarations as required from the aspiring lawmakers by the Constitution and law.

The court ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure that all mandatory information and declarations are part of the revised Form A, the nomination form for election to an assembly or the Senate, and Form B, the statement of assets and liabilities.

Subsequently, the ECP, as well as PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq, challenged the LHC ruling on nomination papers. The counsel for the ECP also raised the point that the LHC order could delay the general elections.

On Sunday, a two-judge Supreme Court (SC) bench headed by the chief justice suspended the LHC ruling on preparation of fresh nomination papers.

During Monday’s hearing, the chief justice remarked, “Electoral candidates could argue that they need time to gather information if the old forms were restored.”

“The parliament is autonomous, what can we do when it has already legislated [on the nomination forms],” he said, adding that the court doesn’t want a delay in the 2018 general elections.

Barrister Zafarullah, the counsel for AWP, argued that voters have the right to know about the details of assets and other issues of their candidates. To this, the top judge responded that the elected representatives of voters themselves had legislated on the issue. The 2018 polls will be held on time, he asserted.

However, the counsel was adamant that a nomination form can be uploaded within 10 minutes and can be filled in 10 minutes as well.

The chief justice adjourned the hearing of the case until June 6, saying that the matter will be taken up in detail on Wednesday.

Senior leader of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Asad Umer in a tweet on Sunday stated: “The old nomination forms should be restored and the Supreme Court should take a clear decision in this regard on Monday so that there is no delay in elections.”

“We cannot have forms which give public the impression that politicians’ misdeeds are being allowed to be hidden.”

Following the SC’s decision on Sunday, the ECP had announced revised dates for collection of nomination papers from candidates aspiring to contest the upcoming general elections.
According to the revised schedule, the list of candidates would be issued on June 8.