ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday directed the federal government to make functional quarantine centers in the country in one month and also sought a report in this regard.
A five-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed heard the case regarding the closure of hospitals due to the coronavirus.
During the course of proceedings, the chief justice asked about the doctors, who were taken into custody by Balochistan police and taken to a police station in a van.
The Additional Advocate General informed the court that all the doctors were released later.
To a court query about their demands, the AAG responded that the provincial cabinet had approved the doctors’ demands.
The chief justice directed the government to provide available protective kits and facilities to the doctors.
He said the court had observed that the doctors were protesting the non-provision of the protective kits. If the same were not provided to the doctors and medical staff, then their lives would be at risk, he added.
He asked how much money the Balochistan government had received to combat the coronavirus. The AAG replied that the provincial government had received Rs 443 million and Rs 118 million of which had been spent so far.
The Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) apprised the court that he had talked to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza regarding the court’s query about the closure of out-patient departments of hospitals, who wanted to give a briefing to the court on the steps taken by the government in the health sector. The government was taking steps to combat the virus, he added.
He said the government had closed the OPDs as the people gathered there while the emergency departments were open to all types of patients.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the government had to help the people on the ground. If there were local governments, the people would have been helped at the grassroots level, he added.
He said the local government system in the country, including Islamabad, was dysfunctional. The chief justice said the government’s job was not to keep the employees on contract instead of appointing on a regular basis.
The attorney general said that the federal cabinet had discussed the matter.
The chief justice asked the government to appoint all employees on a regular basis in all the departments of hospitals. Many cases were pending in the Supreme Court regarding the regularization of employees.
He said the government had appointed the employees on a contract basis, instead of recruiting them through the Public Service Commission.
He said the parliament should be in session at all times to formulate new laws. The job of courts was not to make laws, he added.
The chief justice said who was being paid under the Ehsaas programme.
The attorney general said the government would give money to those below the poverty line.
The chief justice asked as to how it would be known that the money had reached the poor. The attorney general replied that the data collected by the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which had been renamed as Ehsaas programme, was being used.
He said the Ehsaas programme had been approved by a foreign agency.
During the hearing, the court was informed that the process to prepare ventilators in Pakistan was underway. The court directed the government to provide all resources in that regard, as the ventilators would be provided in hospitals and quarantine centers.
The court directed the federal, provincial and Gilgit-Baltistan governments to ensure the provision of safety kits in hospitals.
The chief justice said emergency legislation was needed in the current situation and the government should take immediate action on the matter. Quarantine centers were needed in cities and hospitals, he added.
He said quarantine centers having a capacity of 1,000 people should be set up at Taftan, Torkham and Chaman borders.
The chief justice said the government should take steps to maintain law and order in the country.
Later, the case was adjourned till Monday.