SC lashes out at Sindh govt for not rehabilitating Gujjar Nullah affectees

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KARACHI: The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) lashed out at the Sindh government Wednesday after the province’s advocate general informed the apex court it does not have enough funds to rehabilitate Gujjar Nullah affectees. The apex court was hearing a plea filed by the Gujjar Nullah residents who had requested the formation of a larger bench to hear the anti-encroachment case. Advocate General Sindh Salman Talibuddin appeared on behalf of the provincial government, informing the court that the Sindh government was in an “extreme financial crisis” as the federal government had not released funds that were to be given to the province. “The federal government still has Rs20bn [that it had to release to the Sindh government],” said Talibuddin. “Then give the people [anti-encroachment drive affectees] permission to reside in the Chief Minister House,” Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed remarked. “You can issue the order, we will make room for people at the Chief Minister House,” said the advocate general in response. When Talibuddin again informed the court that the Sindh government was short of funds, the chief justice responded angrily by saying: “You have done nothing in the province.” Talibuddin told the court that when a government has limited resources, it has to deal with problems. “You have a different set of priorities. It is not the Supreme Court’s job to assist [the Sindh government],” Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan said. Expressing anger at the provincial government, Justice Ahsan said it had sold the land for pennies and now it was claiming that it did not have enough funds.Talibuddin requested the apex court to release Rs10bn to the Sindh government for the rehabilitation of the Gujjar Nullah affectees. He requested the court to reallocate the funds from the money deposited in the apex court against the lands allocated in Malir district a few years back by the provincial government. At this, the court scolded the Sindh government for keeping a close watch on the funds. “What is the Sindh government’s annual budget?” Justice Ahsan asked. “I do not have details of that at the moment,” responded the advocate general, requesting the court for some time to get the relevant information. “The Sindh government’s annual budget is worth several hundred billion rupees,” Justice Ahsan stated. “And you say you don’t have Rs10bn to rehabilitate the affectees?” The chief justice ordered the advocate general to come up with a solution to rehabilitate the affectees. “You asked us to [issue orders for] nullahs to be cleaned and we did that. Now, you’re telling us that you do not have funds?” asked Justice Ajaz ul Ahsan. “Mister advocate general, the way you are talking is not the right thing,” said the chief justice. Talibuddin urged the Supreme Court to issue orders to the federal government so that it grants the Gujjar Nullah affectees houses under the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme. “We have issued an order related to this,” responded the chief justice. The Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) argued that it was the federal government’s responsibility to rehabilitate people whose homes were destroyed in the anti-encroachment drives. “There are lands that can be auctioned. There are other ways as well to rehabilitate the people,” said the AGP. “Sindh and the federal government will have to sit together to solve this issue.” “Is Karachi even a city? It is not. It [has been turned into] garbage,” Justice Gulzar Ahmed remarked angrily.

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