Why did the Supreme Court withdraw its earlier order of reopening of markets?

Pakistan’s Supreme Court withdrew its earlier decision of allowing reopening of markets and shopping malls. The same court has declared the closing of markets unconstitutional before Eid-ul-Fitr. Why is the court issuing confusing signals?

Supreme Court withdraw its earlier order of reopening of markets

The Supreme Court on Monday withdrew its earlier order of reopening of markets, shopping malls on Saturday and Sunday. Last month, the Supreme Court ordered the opening of shopping malls across the country and said that the decision regarding the reopening of markets will be reviewed after Eid-ul-Fitr. The pertinent question is why did the Supreme Court withdraw its earlier order of reopening of markets?

Analysts are mulling over the directions given by the apex court. Can the court direct the parliament for legislation over a matter which clearly belongs to the executive? The court also appears to issuing confusing signals. It issues strong directions to reopen shopping malls before the Eid but declined to accept the responsibility for the spread of the virus. Can the court issue directions and avoid responsibility for the same?

As the hearing went underway, the Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan told the top court that the federal government was taking every necessary measure to control the spread of coronavirus in the country.

At which, Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed stated that the government has yet not made any legislation on protection against coronavirus. “If every institution of the country can work then why not Parliament?” CJP Gulzar questioned.

Read More: COVID-19: Why did the Supreme Court of Pakistan ignore experts’ opinion?

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) informed the court that the testing capacity has increased to 30,000 per day in Pakistan. “30,000 tests are not enough in a country having a population of more than 220 million,” said the CJP.

The CJP asked NDMA to increase testing labs and direct provinces to enhance the testing capacity.

People are not following the SOPs after SC’s order, govt. tells CJP

Before the Supreme Court did withdraw its earlier order of reopening of markets, the federal government recently told the Supreme Court (SC) that citizens were not taking the Covid-19 threat seriously after the apex court’s remarks the other day, making it difficult for the administration to take measures to curb the viral outbreak.

Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin endorsed the federal government’s opinion expressed by the AGP Khalid Javed Khan, saying the lockdown is no more effective as shops have been allowed to open.

Responding to AGP Khan and the Sindh AG, CJP Gulzar Ahmed said that this was not owing to the apex court’s remarks but because police inspectors were permitting businesses to reopen after receiving bribes. He further clarified that the apex court did not make any remarks against the Sindh government. “Even the provincial government is allowing government offices to reopen,” he added.

Read More: 18th Amendment: Can Pakistan have a joint policy to contain COVID-19?

It is worth noting that the apex court not only ordered the reopening of shopping malls but also noted that Pakistan “is not … seriously affected” by Covid-19 and that there is no pandemic in the country. However, Pakistan has had at least 43,966 confirmed cases and more than 900 deaths since March, and the numbers keep rising. At least 500 Pakistani healthcare workers have been infected too, which shows that the country has been hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.

SC refuses to seek an opinion from epidemiologists

The Supreme Court did withdraw its earlier order of reopening of markets but also ignored the plea of AGP Khalid Jawed Khan to seek an opinion from a team of epidemiologists for gauging real threat level and amend its last order in which the apex court held that Pakistan was not affected seriously with the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a medical emergency, therefore, an opinion of medical experts be sought in a similar fashion as the court did in the controversy regarding Zakat distribution,” the AGP argued while emphasizing that none of them was qualified enough to grasp the real danger being posed by the outbreak of global magnitude.

“All the experts are cautioning that the coming month of June may witness a spike in the coronavirus cases, the outcome of which may be horrendous,” the AGP feared, but regretted that the people were not taking the pandemic seriously.

Read More: Coronavirus management: Supreme Court of Pakistan questions government

However, the five-judge bench in its order stated that although the AGP and AG-Sindh had requested the apex court to constitute a team of doctors to seek their opinion, the court, for the time being, did not find this essential as the government functionaries were alive and could do whatever they could in accordance with the law.

Notably, experts in Pakistan have warned against the premature easing of lockdown restrictions, fearing an exponential rise in infections. One healthcare worker said: “Everyone’s scared and exhausted. But we are fighting, we are pushing the limits. All we ask is that the government and people understand that they can help us help them by staying at home and providing us quality protective gear.”

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