Coronavirus management: Supreme Court of Pakistan questions government

Pakistan’s top court expresses concerns over the performance of the incumbent govt. with a special reference to its alleged inability to combat Coronavirus. Should the Supreme Court start meddling into to area which clearly belongs to the executive? What do experts say?

Coronavirus

The world has lauded Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government’s ‘timely’ and ‘wise’ response to novel Coronavirus, but the Supreme Court of Pakistan expresses concern. According to media reports, the top court on Monday expressed concerns over the government’s plan to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus as more cases were reported in the country. Analysts believe that the remarks by the CJP were ‘unnecessary’ and amount to ‘unnecessary interference into the executive’s domain’.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed questioned the state’s preparedness in dealing with the crisis while hearing the petition pertaining to the release of under-trail prisoners amidst the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Read more: After WHO, Japan lauds Pakistan’s efforts in tackling Coronavirus pandemic

During the hearing today, the top judge questioned the government’s action plan regarding the spread of the virus and Special Assistant to the PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza’s qualification. “What sort of an emergency has been imposed in the country where all the hospitals in the country have been closed?” Justice Gulzar remarked. “Private clinics in the country have also been closed.”

“No one knows what is happening on the ground,” he added. “Is this how we will deal with this pandemic? The Centre has nothing and they are doing nothing as well.” To this, Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan informed the court that they have submitted a report in this regard. “The federal government is taking all the necessary steps,” he said.

The top judge further said, “The public has been left on their own. The provincial governments keep talking about distribution of rations and funds and the chief ministers keep issuing orders from their homes. Nobody knows about the ground realities.”

The PML-N’s president accused Prime Minister Khan of ‘utter failure’ and held him responsible for the spread of coronavirus in the country

To this, the attorney general requested the chief justice to take a briefing in his chamber. “What will you tell us there that we don’t already know,” Justice Gulzar remarked.

The top judge also questioned the qualification of SAPM Dr Mirza. “Zafar Mirza only comes on the television for projections. We are not coronologists. We just want to make sure the public is getting their basic rights.”

It is important to note that Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan Matsuda Kuninori commended Pakistan’s tremendous efforts to tackle the coronavirus, which has so far left 26 people dead and over 2000 infected in Pakistan. Japanese ambassador said this while talking to Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza here in Islamabad on Thursday. During the meeting, both leaders discussed the situation arising out of COVID-19.

Read more: Coronavirus in Pakistan: Will ignorance & illiteracy let us fight it?

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has termed Pakistan’s measures against COVID-19 outbreak as “timely” and the “best national response”. The Country Head of the WHO Dr Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala, while talking to media in Karachi during his visit to various hospitals and testing labs, said: “At a time when other countries were reporting cases, Pakistan was keeping the virus at bay, which is something quite praiseworthy.”

However, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif sheepishly termed Prime Minister Imran Khan ‘incompetent’.  He also alleged that the government is using the “Corona Relief Fund” to advance its political agenda, therefore, a parliamentary monitoring committee must be established for oversight of the funds to ensure their justified usage. The PML-N’s president accused Prime Minister Khan of ‘utter failure’ and held him responsible for the spread of coronavirus in the country. He said that a parliamentary committee is necessary to probe the details of import of items being procured from abroad.

Saleha Anwar, a Lahore-based political commentator, believes that the government should ask the Supreme Court of Pakistan to issue some guidelines in order to deal with Coronavirus outbreak.

“I am surprised to see such statements from Pakistan’s top court in a critical situation like this. Will the SC be able to guide the government as to how should it contain the virus? This is, in my opinion, a domain which clearly belongs to the executive,” she said while speaking to GVS.

Experts believe that the court should be careful while passing remarks in situation like this when the entire world is failing to combat coronavirus outbreak.

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