ISLAMABAD                   -n            The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday rejected the federal and the provincial governments’ reports about the measures taken to control coronavirus outbreak.

A five-member of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed conducted hearing of Raja Muhammad Nadeem petition against Islamabad High Court order dated March 20 regarding release of 408 prisoners on the basis of coronavirus crisis.

The apex court dismissed the reports submitted by the federal and the provincial governments and the ICT about measures to control spread of coronavirus in their respective areas.

During the hearing, the Chief Justice remarked that what we do with these reports when these are making no sense. He added that we do not see any emergency except talk.

Justice Gulzar said that except holding meetings and passing resolution nothing is on the ground about the governments’ plans. What sort of medical emergency it is that the OPDs in public hospitals and the private hospitals are closed. Everyone is working for the funds.

The Chief Justice also questioned the competence of Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza saying that he is just being given coverage on media on daily basis.

He added that they want to analyse the federal government’s performance to counter the pandemic but no work is being done by the government apart from holding meetings. The Outdoor Patients Departments (OPDs) of all hospitals in Islamabad and the provinces are closed. However, later the advocate generals of all provinces informed that the OPDs in their respective provinces are operational to cater the needs of patients suffering from other diseases.

Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan said that the concerned authorities would give briefing in the chambers. However, the chief justice rejected the suggestion.

All the provinces, Islamabad Capital Territory and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) supported the recommendations of the attorney general for the release of prisoners. The AGP had submitted the proposals for release of prisoners on the last hearing.

The Chief Justice remarked that every day on the TV channels it is being told that billions of rupees have been allocated for distribution of money and ration but nothing is done on the ground. The TV channels are scaring public from morning till evening. The officials are sitting in their houses and making decision and giving statement on the TV channels. He added that it is pathetic that no action is being taken by the government.

The CJP said that what kind of medical emergency has been imposed in the country? Every hospital and clinic should remain open. The Ministry of National Health Services wrote a letter to the Supreme Court to close its dispensary. Why should the dispensary be closed? Is the pandemic being countered this way?”

The attorney general contended that the federal government is taking best measures against the coronavirus outbreak. The CJP replied that the federation is doing nothing and the report that you have submitted is clarifying that.

The top judge further said, “The public has been left on their own. The provincial governments keep talking about distribution of rations and funds and the chief ministers keep issuing orders from their homes. Nobody knows about the ground realities.”

Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked advocate general Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) about the report submitted by Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari stating that the Peshawar High Court (PHC) ordered the release of 3,200 prisoners. The advocate general KP replied that perhaps the human rights minister is mistaken as no such order has been issued by the PHC.

Justice Gulzar said that the people are closed in their houses and in one or two rooms’ houses 8 to 10 persons are living. How long they could live in such situation. People do not have jobs. The Chief Justice questioned whether the roads disinfected in ICT, GB and all the provinces.

The chief justice said that right to life, right to survival are the fundamental rights of the people and they cannot allow right to life be jeopardized he added that it is the basic concern of the Supreme Court.

He said that for the last 15 years Pakistan Steel Mills is closed but the workers are being paid salaries, pension and promotion. The same condition is of PIA and the Karachi Shipyard. Is anyone is cognizant of the matter, the chief justice remarked. He said instead of relying on USA and foreign countries things like ventilator and kits could be manufactured locally.

Mentioning the petition filed pertaining to the release of under-trail prisoners, the CJP said that the court cannot release the under-trial prisoners. “The government needs to find a way around this. Those who have the virus will infect others as well. The government needs to impose precautionary measures in prisons,” he added.

Justice Qazi Ameen who was also part of the five-member bench said that the court was concerned about the lives of people. “If the infected person is not in the jail, others will be safe.”

Justice Atta Bandial questioned that if the infected person was not in jail, then how the others would be infected. “We need to make SOPs to deal with these situations. A large number of people live in police and army barracks and SOPs are followed there,” he said.

“Homes should not be compared to jails,” the attorney general said. “I have made my suggestions regarding the prisoner release.”

Justice Gulzar then asked the attorney general that if he was sure the government would listen to his recommendations. The court also ordered for better facilities to be set up at Taftan border to screen patients and to keep them in isolation. Proper quarantine centers and isolation wards should be set up at Taftan, Torkhan, and Chaman borders.

Later, the bench decided to announce order regarding en bloc bails granted by the Sindh High Court and Islamabad High Court in view of coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday (today).