SC asks Govt to remove Mirza

-Suspends Punjab Govt’s stipulation of virus test certificate for inter-district travel

By Shakeel Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan resumed on Monday the hearing of a suo motu case pertaining to the steps that the centre has taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
A five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed heard the case. Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed are also on the bench.
During the hearing, CJP Ahmed remarked that the government had not done anything at this point to stem the spread of the virus.
“There is an army of ministers and advisors in place but no work is being done,” CJP Ahmed observed. He also alleged that “corrupt people” have been kept as advisors in the government.
During the hearing, Justice Ahmed also questioned the credentials of the Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Health Dr Zafar Mirza and ordered the removal of the special assistant.
CJP Ahmed had on Friday sent notices to the Attorney-General of Pakistan, the health secretary, and the interior secretary questioning the inadequate facilities being provided to citizens by the federal government to combat the coronavirus.
At a hearing into the case on Saturday, the government had informed the top court that special counters had been set up at all the major international airports and ground crossings strengthened at the Taftan, Chaman and Torkham borders to curb the spread of the virus.
In a report submitted to the apex court on Saturday, the government informed CJP Ahmed that an emergency had been declared in the border areas of Balochistan with Iran, with additional staff deployed at border crossings. The federal government further submitted that all the passengers coming into Pakistan were required to fill mandatory health declaration forms before entering the country.
The court was informed that 207 hospitals in all major cities and 154 districts across Pakistan had been identified for isolation of suspected patients of the coronavirus.
The government further submitted that quarantine centres had been established in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) with 300 beds for patients confirmed to have contracted the virus.
According to the federal government, quarantine centres have been established at the Pak China Friendship Center, OGDCL, Hajj Complex, Radisson Hotel, and Hill View Hotel. The report submitted to the court claimed that in order to identify the suspected patients of the virus, around 83 thermal scanners had been installed in 83 different places across the country. The court was also provided with details about the number of healthcare providers (doctors, paramedics and allied) at the health facilities in Islamabad, including 875 doctors at the public sector hospitals and 905 in private hospitals.
Similarly, a total of 850 doctors and paramedics, including 200 at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad, 350 at the DHO and 300 in the CHE, have been trained for the control of the outbreak in ICT. The court was informed that 13,000 health facilities across the country were entrusted with the responsibility to collect surveillance data. Public awareness messages have been developed and regularly disseminated to all modes of media, the report stated.
As of April 13, Pakistan has reported more than 5,300 cases of the coronavirus and 93 deaths. Of the total infected, Punjab has the highest count 2,594, whereas Sindh comes in second with 1,411. A countrywide lockdown is being observed until April 14 to curb the spread of the virus. Owing to pressure from the business community, who are facing great losses, as well as concerns surrounding the livelihood of daily wage workers, the provinces are mulling over whether or not to extend the lockdown period. The Supreme Court has nullified Punjab government’s decision to mandate recovered coronavirus patients to produce a coronavirus travel certificate for inter-district travel.