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March 22, 2020

SC urged to direct govt to declare national emergency

Top Story

March 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A constitutional petition was filed with the Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday, praying that the federal and provincial governments be directed to take immediate action to effectively deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Human rights activists, lawyers, President of Awami Workers Punjab (AWP), including Rohail Kasi, Ammar Rashid, Hassan Kamran and others filed the petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

The federation, through the Ministry of National Health Services, and the chief secretaries of the four provinces have been made respondents.

The apex court was requested to order the federal government to declare a national public health emergency across the country, establish an emergency relief fund, and order utilization of the dam fund for curtailment of the killer virus.

"The confirmed cases of corona have jumped from 22 last Friday to 504 cases today," they informed the court.

Owing to the rapid acceleration, they feared if the virus was not contained right away, it would reach a level where the governments won't be able to control.

The petitioners contended that even at this early stage of the pandemic, the federal as well as the provincial governments had failed miserably and in fact the governments’ current policies, ignorance of the gravity of situation and inaction would only serve to accelerate the issue.

According to the petitioners, “This global epidemic poses an unprecedented threat to the fundamental rights of the public at large, including, but not limited to, the right to essential healthcare, the right to earn a livelihood, the right to enjoy equal protection of law, the right to freedom of movement and assembly, the right to trade, the right to receive information, the right to education, and all in all, the right to a dignified and free existence.

"This pandemic disease, if not curbed urgently, possesses the capacity to destabilize the entire nation, resulting in unmatched physical, mental, economic, and social loss to the country," they contended.

They prayed for an urgent action to secure katchi abadis and refugee settlements adding that the katchi abadis with their high density, poor sanitation, water shortages, and proximity to sewage could become death traps and flash points for coronavirus expansion.

The petitioners also requested the apex court to release undertrial inmates and convicted prisoner for minor offenses incarcerated in jails all over the country.

They feared that if the federal and provincial Governments did not take immediate effective measures, there would be large-scale losses of life, critical health issues, food shortages, economic downfall, crime, and chaos.