ISLAMABAD                  -            The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday turned down a petition seeking the court’s intervention in bringing back Pakistani pilgrims stuck in Iran due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the petition and dismissed it by terming it as non-maintainable.

The IHC bench observed that it is policy matter and the court cannot interfere in it. Justice Athar remarked that people should trust the government as the entire world is facing the coronavirus pandemic. The court also advised the petitioner to approach the concerned authorities over the matter as it falls under the domain of the Foreign Ministry.

During the hearing, the counsel for petitioners contended that visas of Pakistanis stranded in Iran have expired. The IHC Chief Justice remarked that it is an international issue and court cannot issue any ruling on it.

Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen leader Syed Nasir Abbas Sherazi moved the petition through Fida Hussain Rana and cited Secretary to Prime Minister, Secretary Interior, Secretary Foreign Affairs, Secretary Defense and Chairman Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) as respondents.

The petitioner submitted that thousands of Pakistani pilgrims are stranded in Iran and the impression is being created here that all the problems related to coronavirus in the country are due to them.

The petition stated that Pakistanis who travel to Iran, Iraq and Syria for pilgrimage to the holy shrines are usually given visas for 15 to 30 days, however, the visas of Pakistanis in Iran are either expired or are about to expire. It added that they are now stranded in the country because the government has suspended all international flights.

It further stated that while special flights were operated to repatriate Pakistanis stuck in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Europe, the government’s lack of interest in bringing back those stuck in Iran is putting their lives at risk.

The petitioner said that Pakistani pilgrims who returned from Iran have been held responsible for “spreading coronavirus” in Pakistan. However, it was not the people’s fault but the “wrong decisions” made by the government that led to this situation.

He added that when the pilgrims started returning via Taftan border, there were no basic facilities for their screening because of which the people of Pakistan were forcibly made privy to the said life-threatening coronavirus. He maintained that some people and media channels had tried to give the spread of coronavirus a sectarian color.

Therefore, he prayed to the court to direct the respondents to immediately make arrangements, send special flights to Iran to get back Pakistani pilgrims from Iran to their homeland and they may be ordered to be medically examined and be treated in accordance with law.

He also requested that the persons already kept or stayed at Taftan border may be ordered to be provided all facilities for their safe and immediate return to their houses.