ISLAMABAD-The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Friday directed the federal government to inform the court on policy regarding Pakistani students stranded in China by March 20.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah issued these directions while hearing the matter pertaining to repatriation of Pakistani students stranded in China’s coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan.

During the hearing, an assistant attorney general informed the IHC bench that an official visit of President Arif Alvi to China is on the cards. However, an official of the foreign ministry added that a final decision on the President’s trip is yet to be taken.

A Director General of the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs said, “A final decision on the President’s trip to China has not been taken yet.” He added that the Pakistanis stuck in the Chinese province would be compensated with cash grant, whereas, the decision to repatriate the students from China would be taken by the cabinet.”

At this, a mother of one of the students asked the official not to give money and bring them back to Pakistan. Then, one of the parents also told the court that they have been informed that there was a complete ban on the coverage of the disease in China.

The IHC CJ remarked that the court cannot intervene in the policy matters of other countries. He added that the situation is so precarious that the US has imposed a ban on flights from Europe. Justice Athar maintained that the Coronavirus has become a problem for the world.

The official from the foreign ministry also said that they have not been informed about the cabinet decision as of yet.

The IHC CJ said to the parents that some matters are not legal and the court cannot intervene in government policies.

At this juncture, the petitioner’s lawyer interjected saying that they were not asking for the court’s intervention in government policy but were seeking the court’s help in getting informed about the return of their children.

Later, the court directed the federal cabinet to apprise the court on policy regarding repatriating Pakistani students stuck in China and deferred the hearing till March 20.

In this matter, the petitioner Tariq Asad Advocate moved the petition through his counsel Abdullah Tahir Advocate and cited Federation of Pakistan through Federal Secretary Ministry of Interior, Prime Minister through Principal Secretary and Federal Secretary of Health as respondents.

In this petitioner, Asad prayed to the court to constitute a high-level medical board comprising of specialists in the field who are independent from political pressure to look into the matter and take necessary measures.

He also requested the court to issue directions for detaining any passenger landing at any airport in Pakistan from China directly or indirectly from other airport and keeping them in quarantine for a reasonable time until they are proven to be virus free.

The petitioner further prayed to the court to evacuate the Pakistani students or others from China only until they are proven to be virus free and restrain the Pakistanis living in China studying or doing any job not to leave China till further decision to be taken by the respondents.

He stated that this petition is motivated by the conviction that the coronavirus is spreading all over the world, but the respondents have not taken any considerable measures to remove the apprehensions and spread of the said disease.

He added that as a coronavirus has spread in China and around the world, scientists are scrambling to find out exactly where it came from. Now, a new study provides more clues to the virus’ origins and points to bats as the most likely hosts.

Asad maintained that it is deplorable that despite emerging in humans only recently, the virus has already infected about 6,000 people and caused 132 deaths in China, while spreading to 15 other countries. He added that most of the initial cases occurred in people who worked at or visited the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, where a variety of wild animals were sold.

He continued that undoubtedly coronavirus is highly epidemic and may be transferred to anybody even through breathing around. The petitioner said that the study reveals that coronavirus is a very highly epidemic ailment which spreads through the air by viral particles in droplets from a cough or sneeze.

“Health workers and family members are also vulnerable to infection from close personal contact while they are caring for patients with inadequate barrier protection (gloves, gown and surgical mask). Hence it is worthwhile to be careful to come across the viral patient,” said the petition.