LAHORE - The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the federal and provincial governments to submit their replies on the AIDS Control Programmes, making it clear that HIV/AIDS should be treated as a disease and not as a stigma.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar passed the order on a suo motu notice on the incidence of AIDS in Jalalpur Jattan in Gujrat. 

The CJP observed that AIDS was a national issue and it should be heard at Islamabad seat with appearance of the federal and provincial authorities. The top judge also summoned secretaries of health of the federal and the provincial governments as well as NGOs working on AIDS control programme. 

A former executive officer of Gujrat appeared before the bench and said that 53 cases of HIV had been reported in Jalalpur Jattan among them were 47 women and six children. He cited an official inquiry according to which two HIV positive expatriates from South Africa had returned to Jalalpur Jattan after being deported during 1993.

At this, the CJP expressed serious concerns over the increasing number of patients, observing that the authorities had no statistics despite that such patients were all over the country.

During the proceedings, Dr. Ajmal Khan, Punjab Healthcare Commission’s chief operative officer, also informed the court that no valid data about the HIV patients was available with the governments and said that unclean blood transfusion was the main cause of spreading virus of HIV among the people.

A federal law officer said that AIDS control program was being run at federal and provincial levels and the non-government organizations were also working on it to save the people from HIV virus.

After hearing the arguments of the officials, the CJP sought replies from the federal and the provincial governments, with directions to the authorities concerned not to deal with the disease as stigma but treat it as a disease.

Taking up the issue of quacks, the top court got an administrator of a ‘rehabilitation centre’ arrested and ordered police to register a criminal case against him.

Punjab Healthcare Commission’s chief Dr. Ajmal Khan said Amir Chishti Clinic was “established as rehabilitation centre” but the addicts admitted to the centre were subjected to violence. Dr. Khan also showed the bench a video of torture, saying that the clinic had centers in Lahore, Shiekhpura and Faisalabad.  Over 300 alleged addict persons had been kept there in the centre of Lahore, said Dr. Khan. He also said Dr. Khan said no qualified doctor was available at these rehabilitation centres.

Police produced Imran Chishti, the administrator of the centre, before the court who could not say even a single word in his defence when he was asked by the bench about the situation at rehabilitation centres under his control.

The CJP directed Advocate General Punjab Imtiaz Rasheed Siddiqui and Additional Advocate General Shan Gull to personally visit the rehabilitation centers and shift the addicts kept there to Darul Aman.