Child drowns in Gilgit River: Court summons civic agency officials

By: Sabir Jan
Published: June 17, 2011

Family blames the authority’s ‘inefficiencies’ for child’s drowning.

GILGIT:  The Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) on Thursday took suo motu notice of the growing water crisis in the city that led to the drowning of a child in Gilgit River.

A nine-year-old student, Fayaz, drowned in Gilgit River on Tuesday night while fetching water for household use. Despite the efforts of over a hundred volunteers, the boy’s body is yet to be recovered.

The court, headed by Chief Justice Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi, directed Deputy Inspector General (DIG) police to investigate the matter and register a case against those found guilty. The court summoned officials of Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), including Chief Engineer Hassamud Din, Basharatullah and Farman to the court.

The chief justice rebuked the officials for failing to cater to public requirements and noted that WASA is an inefficient and overstaffed department. He said that the water shortage speaks volumes of the inability of the department, which has forced people to fetch water from rivers, leaving them prone to accidents.

The court also asked WASA why over 1,300 of its employees have failed to run 26 water projects properly, adding that inept appointments are being made in the department. “Where 40 people can do the job, more than 150 are recruited,” the judges observed. The court also sought report from the chief secretary for overstaffing in the public works department.

Sources said that the WASA officials failed to convince the chief justice and other judges as the judges, who termed their arguments “misleading”.

Meanwhile dozens of students of the primary school where Fayaz studied gathered outside the court, asking the chief justice to take action against the crisis. They held WASA responsible for their friend’s death.

Police said that the boy’s younger sister, Naila, who jumped in the river to save her brother, would have also drowned had she not been rescued by bystanders.

The boy’s family said that as his father’s work kept him away from home, Fayaz was the only person who helped his mother with household chores.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2011.

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