ISLAMABAD         -                The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday deferred hearing of the matter pertaining to repatriation of Pakistani students stranded in China’s Coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan for four weeks. A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the petitions in this matter and asked the parents of Pakistani students stranded in China to trust the state as it is taking the right measures in the current circumstances.

During the hearing, high-level officials from the Foreign Ministry and Cabinet division presented the government’s response, which had earlier been sought by the court.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General (China) Mudassir Tipu informed the court that things are improving in China following the initial outbreak, and that the situation would improve further in the next two weeks.

He also informed the court that a plane carrying food items and medicines provided by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had already been dispatched to China. He further said that the government has provided cash grants to 95 per cent of students residing in China.

The parents of the stranded Pakistani students complained that the government had not taken any measures to bring back their children.

At this juncture, Justice Athar said the most important thing is that the Pakistani students are much safer in China as they would have been at greater risk in Pakistan. He added that the US and the UK have acknowledged after taking back their citizens that they did the wrong thing. He continued that the only success story in the world right now in the fight against Coronavirus is China.

He said that the court would be wrapping up the case and that the worried parents should trust the state in the matter. However, the parents pleaded that the case should not be concluded but kept in a pending state. Later, the IHC bench deferred the hearing in this matter for four weeks.

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 airports 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.

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.

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.

The petitioner adopted that thus it is the constitutional obligation of the federal government and the respondents to take this matter very seriously and constitute a medical board.