ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday stressed that the federal government needs to formulate a uniform strategy at the national level to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.

A four-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed, conducted hearing of a suo moto notice on federal and the provincial governments measures to combat coronavirus, and later deferred the proceedings in this matter for two weeks.

 The bench said that making law is essential for dealing with the coronavirus, therefore in its order dated 07-04-2020 it had noted its importance, but nothing has been done in this regard.

 The apex court noted in its short order, “the federal government must take this matter seriously and ensure legislation at the national level.”

  The CJP remarked that when all the institutions are functioning then why is the Parliament not meeting and passing laws to curtail the national problem of coronavirus.

 Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan informed the court that the legislature is in session for the budget and the federation is making all out efforts to enforce the SOPs.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that this is a national issue and over 1 lac people are affected by the coronavirus. He added that a uniform policy needs to be adopted with the consensus of federal government and all the provinces. The federal government has to take the lead in this regard, because the time is of the essence as many people are being killed by this disease.

 The Chief Justice said that when coronavirus broke out in China and other countries they made laws and then proceeded to control the spread of the disease.

He said that they are dealing with the fundamental rights of the citizens, encroaching upon them through executive orders cannot be allowed. Therefore, this court has been saying that if they want to close down shops and business then do it through legislation.

The Attorney General also showed concern regarding the treatment of sanitary workers who are asked to go into sewerage manholes for cleaning purposes without being providing safety kits and adopting safety measures. He requested the court to issue a direction in this regard to the governments.

Following this, court directed the federal and the provincial governments to ensure the provision of safety kits to the sanitary workers within two weeks, and said that no sanitary worker be asked to indulge in cleaning of sewerage manholes without safety kits.

The apex court ordered the federal and the provincial governments to make laws and ensure their implementation across the board.

The court noted in its order, “the member of NDMA is not aware of the correct number of laboratories conducting coronavirus (COVID-19) tests in Pakistan. He is directed to file a report regarding all the laboratories which are operating all over Pakistan and are providing testing facility for coronavirus (COVID-19).”

Idrees Masood, member National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) informed the court that PPE are manufactured at Pakistan Ordinance Factory (POF) Wah and by DESTO. He admitted that DESTO has imported machinery from China for manufacturing of PPEs.

The bench directed him to file the formal documents for import of machine. The member NDMA was also asked to file a report about the testing capacity of coronavirus suspects.

Concerning locust, Idrees informed the court that a survey has been carried out of 26 million hectares of land all over Pakistan, while 529,000 hectares land have been sprayed.

He told that they have four aircrafts and three helicopters. Out of four planes only one is in working condition, while one plane has been taken from Turkey on lease for spraying the land. He further said that as the planes are old and special training required for flying therefore they have hired three pilots last week and are now giving them training for flying the planes.

The court directed him to supply documents of charter plane taken on lease from Turkey before the next date.

The apex court added, “The locusts have already been in Pakistan for a long time and to our information they have completed two cycles of their breeding in the territory of Pakistan. Still, we note that all out efforts for combating this menace have not been undertaken. There is no doubt that the locusts pose a serious danger to the agriculture sector in Pakistan, in that it may wipe out most of the agricultural production and there may occur serious shortage of agricultural goods. This shortage of agricultural goods may lead to a shortage of food for the people. Thus, we note that the locusts have to be immediately dealt with and totally eradicated from Pakistan with due promptitude in order to ensure that it does not cause substantial loss to the agriculture sector of Pakistan. A categorical and comprehensive report in this regard be filed by the Department of Plant Protection, so also by the NDMA before the next date of hearing.”

The court observed that its 15-05-2020 order for not closing shops and malls on Saturday and Sunday was for Eid. The court on the request of the Attorney General modified its order dated 15-05-2020 and said that the government can take decision about closure of markets and malls on Saturday and Sunday.