Pakistan will allow gradual return of pilgrims from Iran, says govt - Pakistan Today

Pakistan will allow gradual return of pilgrims from Iran, says govt

–IHC grills PTI govt, orders Dr Mirza, Zulfi Bukhari to meet parents of students stranded in China

–Pakistan temporarily opens border with Iran, allows 250-300 people to enter country

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza on Friday said that the government will gradually allow Pakistani zaireens [pilgrims] returning from Iran in batches after a full health screening.

The decision was made after reviewing the situation at the Taftan-Zahedan border, he said, adding the point of entry was being strengthened.

Meanwhile, Taftan Assistant Commissioner Najibullah Qambrani said that the border between Iran and Pakistan has been temporarily opened to allow for one-way traffic into the country. Around 250-300 Pakistanis stuck in Iran are being allowed to return, he said, adding that those returning include pilgrims among other Pakistani citizens, he said. He added that the citizens were stuck in Iran and their visas were expiring.

“Those entering Pakistan from Iran are being screened. The pilgrims will definitely be kept under quarantine. They will be allowed to leave after proper screening has been done,” Qambrani said.

On Wednesday, Pakistan recorded its first two cases of coronavirus, with one each being in Karachi and Islamabad. The patients had returned recently from Iran. Dr Mirza said that the two patients were stable and their condition was improving. “Contacts traced until now and tested are all negative,” he added.

Separately, the Sindh health department cleared the family of Pakistan’s first confirmed coronavirus patient after screening. The 22-year-old had arrived in Karachi on February 20, indicating that there were chances that the thermal screening machines at the airports for those entering the country may not have worked after all. The machines are supposed to immediately detect higher-than-usual body temperature.


Separately, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed Dr Mirza and Zulfi Bukhari, special assistant to the prime minister on Overseas Pakistanis, to meet parents of the students stuck in China due to coronavirus outbreak.

Hearing the case pertaining to the return of the students quarantined in China, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah expressed displeasure when the health ministry representative told it about the formation of a committee to assist the parents.

Justice Athar Minallah remarked, “Do not tell the court about the committee. Why is the government of Pakistan irresponsible? The affectees are complaining continuously. It is the duty of the federal cabinet to solve the matter, not the foreign ministry. Why should not some federal ministers be sent to China on a visit?”

The foreign ministry representative maintained that the government is waiting for a fresh report from China and the cabinet will make a decision in the light of that report.

The lawyer representing parents of the stranded students argued that there was a clear difference between the statements of the students and the government, and took the stance that the court should issue an order in this case also if it can summon a prime minister.

Justice Athar Minallah said, “The situation is complicated and the decision is to be taken by the government. This is a court and there is no expert here who can solve this matter. The petition is only being heard to satisfy the parents.”

The IHC declared that a four-member team comprising the counsels of the parents will meet Dr Mirza, Zulfi Bukhari and cabinet secretary. The hearing was adjourned till March 6.