ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday expressed its dissatisfaction to both the federal and provincial governments as well as to the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) regarding the measures taken by them to curtail the coronavirus pandemic.

A five-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed, conducted the hearing of a suo moto notice on COVID-19 pandemic, showing displeasure over the irregularities in Zakat and Bait-ul-Mal funds.

The top court directed the federal and provincial governments to devise a joint policy to tackle the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the country and submit a report on it within a week.

The court also expressed its dismay over the absence of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) officials during the hearing and the court also grilled the Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad over the lack of facilities in quarantine centers in the federal capital.

The bench further ordered Director General NDMA to file a report detailing why a quarantine centre with no proper facilities was first established at Haji Camp, and later on shifted to Hostel City with 48 beds for coronavirus patients.

Federal Secretary National Health and Sciences said that he visited the quarantine centre at Haji Camp adding that the facilities were not adequate. Therefore, it was shifted to Hostel City. He said that a 48-room girls’ hostel was designated as a quarantine centre by the Islamabad’s district administration. A room would be partitioned to accommodate four people, he said.

 

Justice Gulzar also had serious reservation regarding the transparency process of spending billions to control the pandemic. “Nothing is being told to us about how the departments are working. Everything seems to be just paperwork,” the CJP said.

 

He questioned how can billions be spent on the purchase of masks and gloves? “If there is an audit, things will become clear,” he added.

The Chief Justice said that it seems that the federal and provincial governments are conspiring against the people of the country. Irked by the blame game, the top judge expressed his displeasure, saying that the current condition is “incomprehensible”.

 

The court also remarked that the federal government should provide funds to the provincial government as they have asked for extra funds to combat the spread of the virus.

 

The apex court expected that all the governments (federal, all provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan) and all stakeholders shall sit together and bring forth a national policy to deal with all matters and to ensure that uniform policy is implemented all over Pakistan. The federal and the provincial government have been directed to file report on this during the next hearing.

 

During the hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed said that smart system is needed to be in place instead of a lockdown of the whole country. He informed the court that a National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting is scheduled on May 9, wherein the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers will discuss the issue and come up with solution.

 

The bench had previously severely criticised the government over the Auditor General report about Zakat and Baitul Mal Funds. The Auditor General has found a lot of irregularities in the Zakat and Baitul Mal Funds. Deputy Auditor General Zakat revealed that irregularities of Rs573 million in Zakat funds, and Rs3 billions in Baitul Mal Funds were pointed out in 2019-20 audit.

 

The bench further told the governments to present their arguments over the provinces’ interference in federal affairs on the next hearing. The court will issue a decision after hearing the arguments.

 

During the hearing, the bench raised questions over the coordination between the federal and provincial governments. How can provincial governments block the federal government’s source of revenue, the Chief Justice asked the Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin.

 

The top court directed the office to send copies of the audit reports to all the provinces seeking their replies.

The bench said after their replies would be examined it would be decided whether the matter should be sent to NAB or FIA.

 

The court noted that the development activities in all the provinces have been stopped but the expenses have been going on and the government officials are getting salaries and perks.

 

The bench also directed Secretary Health Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) to file report whether the clinics at Tabgari Garden are operational and on reports that the police have maltreated some consultants who had clinics at Tabgari Garden. Later, the apex court deferred the hearing till May 11 for further proceedings