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May 20, 2020

SC explains ruling regarding markets: Businesses opening order till Eid only

Top Story

May 20, 2020

SC explains ruling regarding markets: Businesses opening order till Eid only

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Tuesday categorically said its order with regard to the opening of shopping centres on Saturday and Sunday was in perspective of the impending Eidul Fitr and the situation would be reviewed post-Eid.

This observation from the country’s top judicial forum came during the hearing of coronavirus suo motu case by a five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr. Justice Gulzar Ahmed. Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed were the other bench members.

Attorney General Khalid Javed, Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mahmood, and Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal appeared before the court.

Advocate generals of the four provinces argued from their respective branch registries through the video link. The chief justice questioned the authenticity of corona tests being conducted by the state authorities and observed that conditions at the quarantine centers established across the country was pathetic, lacking basic facilities.

The chief justice noted that there was uncertainty with respect to the corona tests being conducted by the government facilities.

He said people did not know if they were infected or not. Giving an example in this regard, he said in Lahore four people were declared positive at a government facility; however, when they approached a private laboratory, their tests were found negative.

The chief justice pointed out that the Supreme Court Lahore Registry employees faced a similar situation when their tests were found negative at a private laboratory. The court observed that the NDMA was working primarily in cities but not in far-flung villages.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed noted that all the resources of government should be used for people. Meanwhile, the court while dictating its order noted down that the chairman NDMA had submitted a useful report.

“We are grateful for such a report and wish success to the chairman NDMA in dealing with coronavirus (COVID-19),” the CJP noted in the order. According to the NDMA report, all personal protective equipment (PPEs) were being manufactured locally, while the private sectors had also been encouraged to get support for manufacturing the required number of PPE.

The court was further informed that production of ventilators in Pakistan had been started. Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Javed contended that coronavirus was present in Pakistan and it was a common knowledge that it could get severe in June, while the resources were not sufficient to cope with the situation.

“We are aware that the pandemic is very much present in Pakistan and it has caused a large number of casualties, while people are still suffering and there is every probability that the cases might increase for which lots of funds and resources will be required,” the court noted in its order.

The AG submitted that the government was trying to do everything to mitigate the situation. We have been assured that necessary medical equipment required for hospitals is going to be manufactured in Pakistan, while the required medicines are also being manufactured locally.

When the chief justice mentioned the medicines being imported from India, the attorney general submitted that the government was in knowledge of such import adding that a strict action would be taken against the importers.

The court rejected the proposal of advocate general Sindh for constituting a committee of experts for evaluating the intensity of the virus and held that the matter was already being dealt with by the government. Meanwhile, the court sought further reports from the NDMA, the federal and provincial governments, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and Gilgit Baltistan.

The court held that Article 149(4) of the Constitution stated that “The executive authority of the Federation shall also extend to the giving of directions to a Province as to the manner in which the executive authority thereof is to be exercised for the purpose of preventing any grave menace to the peace or tranquility or economic life of Pakistan or any part thereof.”

The court also directed all the provinces to provide protective kits and pensioney benefits to the sanitary workers. On a complaint lodged by a sanitary workers’ representative, the court directed the Sindh government to pay the outstanding nine-month salary of sanitary workers in Hyderabad within two days and adjourned further hearing until June 8.

Earlier, during the course of hearing, the CJP observed that people were not getting basic facilities such as running water and clean washrooms at the quarantine centers. He said the court concern was not related to the expenditure, but it was interested in provision of quality services to the people at this critical juncture.

The chief justice further said they had seen videos of people from Lahore Expo Centre and Islamabad quarantine centres where people were agitated and urging others to ‘die abroad but do not come back to Pakistan.

The CJP noted with concern that 10 people were sitting together at the quarantine centres and questioned the establishment of these centers. He emphasized self-sufficiency in producing everything instead of looking to others adding that officials were importing safety equipment from only ‘one party’ in China.

“You have to be self-sufficient in making anything and you have to do it yourself,” the CJP asked the NDMA chairman.

“You cannot afford to purchase anything and you have too much talented people but where have they gone?” the CJP further asked the NDMA chairman. The NDMA chairman, however, responded that Pakistan was producing one million kits per month.

The CJP noted with concern that talented MA, M.Sc graduates were working as baboos. We have a big steel mills and you can get everything from it provided you run it. Nobody is thinking about Pakistan,” the CJP remarked adding that day by day the country would even go below Somalia.

The CJP reminded the NDMA chief of his interview and appreciated it but advised him to be careful about his subordinates. People working under your authority are earning a bad name for you,” the CJP told the Chairman.

“If people are not doing good work in my courts, then it would be a sort of embarrassment for me as well,” the CJP remarked. At the outset of hearing, Attorney General Khalid Javed said owing to the court’s recent order to reopen shopping malls and small markets, the public was thinking that the coronavirus was not a serious matter and now officials were facing difficulty in implementing the SOPs.

He requested the court to keep in view the severity of the situation while giving remarks and orders.

At this, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood told the AG that he should not put it on the court and go through the court order. The judge pointed out that the advocates general ICT and Punjab had given statements in the court about reopening of shops and markets as well as shopping malls.

Raja Bazaar and Moti Bazaar have already been opened and it was not due to the court order,” the judge said, adding that the court had given it orders to the Sindh government. Salman Talibuddin, Advocate General Sindh, said the provincial government was striving to cope with the situation but it did not agree with the directions issued by the federal government.

He said now beauty parlors and barbershops had resumed their work. The CJP, however, said it was not because of the court order but because of the police, which was allowing the barbers and beauty parlors to resume their businesses and the court knew about it.

“We have not said anything to the government of Sindh,” the CJP said, and addressing the AG Sindh said the provincial government had opened all the government offices.

“You have opened the office of sub-registrar where meetings are held for corruption,” the CJP told the AG Sindh. The court also raised the issue of locust. The attorney general informed the court that a heavy flow of locusts was advancing from Ethiopia to Pakistan, while steps were being taken to cope with it.

The CJP said the institutions working for the preservation of crops had planes, which were dealing with the locust. The chairman NDMA, however, told the court that at present only one plane at the base was functional, while one more plane has been purchased.

He said five helicopters of Pakistan Army had also been engaged and hopefully the issue will be dealt with accordingly. Later the court adjourned the hearing until June 8.