ISLAMABAD                -        The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday directed the Secretary Cabinet Division, Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari and Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza to meet the Committee of parents of the students stuck in China  due to Coronavirus epidemic. A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued these directions while petitions seeking appropriate measures from government including constitution of medical board and detention of passengers coming from China to stop the spread of Coronavirus in Pakistan. During the hearing, an official of the Health Ministry informed the court that they have set up a committee to provide assistance to the parents.

At this, Justice Athar remarked that do not tell me about the committee. He added that all the work could not be done by the Director General of the Foreign Ministry. He said that to the officials present in the court that parents were constantly complaining that the government was not listening to their concerns. He further said that it is not the responsibility of the foreign ministry to resolve the problem rather it is the federal cabinet’s responsibility. Then the Additional Attorney General said that they should wait for the cabinet’s decision on the matter while the foreign office official also told the court that the Chinese government is expected to release a new report on which the cabinet would make a decision.

Justice Athar remarked that it is the government’s responsibility to decide about Pakistani students who are trapped in Wuhan as the ‘situation is serious’.

The parents informed the court that there was a “clear difference” in the stance of the government and the students trapped in China. They said that the government is not giving them any answer. At this the IHC CJ remarked that the government should satisfy the parents on the measures they have taken. He added that this is a serious situation and the government of Pakistan needs to make a decision on this.

After issuing the aforementioned directions, the bench deferred hearing in this matter till March 6. 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 Corona virus 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 corona virus 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 corona virus is highly epidemic and may be transferred to anybody even through breathing around.  The petitioner said that the study reveals that corona virus 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 corona virus or not because for the medical consultants in Pakistan are not yet aware of the ailment to that particular virus unless it reaches at a fatal and incurable stage.”

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.