ISLAMABAD                -           The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Wednesday disposed of two separate petitions for the Pakistani students stranded in China due to coronavirus pandemic.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice AtharMinallah conducted hearing of the petitions and disposed of the same observing that the Supreme Court of Pakistan is holding suomoto proceedings in this regard.

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 his petition, 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 is 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 new 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.

It added, “But in case any person from the epidemic region enters into Pakistan, it would be apprehended to mark out whether he has been infected by coronavirus or not.”

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 in this regard to research and take special measures in this regard.

He added that the lives of all the citizens are in danger and thus in violation of their fundamental right guaranteed to them under Article 9 of the Constitution to take this issue casually and keep them under threat and the Federal Government must take up this matter on priority basis and constitute a medical board to study the research articles and proceed in a technical manner to remove apprehensions and save the lives of the citizens of Pakistan.

Similarly, petitioner Mian Muhammad Faisal moved the petition and made the secretaries of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Health as respondents. He submitted in the petition that the coronavirus outbreak has so far killed over 200 people in China, triggering panic world over as many countries are evacuating their nationals from China’s high-risk areas.

He added that there are thousands of students from Pakistan studying in China and of them, around 500 students are in Wuhan. The petitioner said many countries have issued a travel advisory and taking precautionary measures to block the spread of the deadly disease.

Faisal requested the court to direct the government to explain what arrangements are in place to tackle such a deadly virus in Pakistan and especially in the federal capital.

He further demanded that the government should place before the court precise information regarding the Pakistani citizens in China and how many have been affected by this virus till date and what measures so far have been taken to evacuate them as well as other people from the high-risk areas.