ISLAMABAD             -            The Supreme Court of Pakistan will Monday (today) resume its hearing in a matter related to Chief Justice of Pakistan’s suo moto notice of government’s measures taken to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.

A five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed will conduct hearing of the suo moto notice wherein it had said that the federal and the provincial, Islamabad Capital Territory and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) governments would have to elaborate on the distribution of money.

Previously, the top court of Pakistan had said this while expressing its dissatisfaction over distribution of funds and ration saying that there was no mechanism to distribute Zakat and Bailtul Mal funds in a transparent manner.

Justice Gulzar had observed that the federal and the provincial governments were spending money for relief, but there was no transparency. He added that there was no transparency in any of the steps taken by them.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial had observed that the centre had given more than Rs9 billion to provinces, adding it should monitor what the provinces were doing with the money. “Monitoring does not affect provincial autonomy. Monitoring is also a form of an audit,” he had said.

The CJP had remarked that the Zakat and charity money given to the government by the people “is not for TA & DA (travelling allowance and dearness allowance) or foreign tours”. “Zakat money cannot be used for office expenses. How can charity money be used to give salaries of officials?” Justice Gulzar had said. He had also said that the director general of the Baitul Mal was also receiving his salary from the Zakat fund.

Justice Bandial had said that according to the report submitted, the government had collected more than Rs9 billion in Zakat but “nothing has been mentioned about how the money is passed on to the deserving people.”

The court had expressed concern over the inhuman condition of the quarantine centre established at Haji Camp and had questioned why no facility was provided in the camp. The court had remarked that if the condition of quarantine centre was such, then what would be the situation of the centres set in far flung areas of the provinces. He had asked Tanveer Ahmed Qureshi, Secretary Ministry of National Health Services to visit the centre and provide all facilities to the persons quarantined there.

The bench had also questioned the criteria for selecting the hotels in Islamabad for turning them into isolation and quarantine centres. The secretary had informed that quarantine centres had been set up in five hotels and in Pak-China Centre, OGDCL Building and Haji Camp. The chief justice had said that in each quarantine center there should be separate rooms, toilets, beds, running water, medicine and sanitizer for the person affected by coronavirus.

Islamabad advocate general had informed the court that another quarantine centre was being made over 32 kanals in Chak Shehzad. Justice Qazi Amin had suggested when schools and colleges were available to the authorities then why the quarantine centers had not been established there. The justice had said the facilities there were already available and the hot season was around the corner.

The chief justice had also inquired about quarantine facilities provided by the government and had said that people who were isolated in these centres were being charged. He had said that those who could not pay should be kept in quarantine centres free of charge.

“Government is spending a lot of money but it is not clear what is happening,” the top judge had remarked and had added that staying in the quarantine centre at Taftan was a nightmare. The justice had said, “[Who knows] how the money given by the public and other countries is being spent. Billions of rupees have been spent and there are only 5,000 patients.”

Justice Gulzar had said that none of the provinces or department had submitted reports “based on transparency.”

The bench had grilled the Sindh advocate general over details of the money spent on ration bags which were distributed among the lower-income people.

Sindh AG Salman Talibuddin had informed the court that the provincial government had distributed Rs569 million from the Zakat fund among more than 94,000 people. When asked who had received the money, the AG responded, “The same people who received Zakat every year were given the money.”

The court had wondered how the Sindh government distributed ration bags worth Rs1 billion without anyone knowing. “Sindh government hands out pictures to media for the smallest things,” the chief justice had said.