Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Monday expressed his indignation over what he believes are ‘opaque’ procedures and measures adopted to combat the coronavirus crisis in the country, while questioning the transparency in distribution of aid and medical supplies.
The criticism came as a five-member bench of the apex court under the CJP conducted a suo moto hearing into the coronavirus case today.
The secretary health, in his briefing to the court, said that the virus has ‘certain types’ and the ones in the US and Europe are of a more serious nature.
“Why are you comparing us to the US and Europe? Do not do this at all,” said the CJP, adding that it is not possible that national authorities “keep on sleeping” in the hopes that the disaster will pass them by.
During the proceedings, the CJP questioned the federal health secretary about a quarantine centre established near Haji Camp.
“Who turned the Haji Camp [in Islamabad] into a quarantine centre?” asked the CJP, to which the secretary health said that the National Disaster Management Authority was responsible for the decision.
The Attorney General noted that the NDMA has submitted a report regarding the measures it undertook following the virus outbreak, but none of the NDMA officials were present before the court to discuss the report.
The court expressed anger over the lack of representation from the NDMA, following which it questioned Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat about the Haji Camp quarantine centre.
“You people are spending billions of rupees, but no one knows what is happening… There is no transparency in anything,” the CJP remarked.
He further questioned the criteria being followed by state institutions in addressing the prevalent issues, and on provision of masks and safety gear.
“If we conduct an audit of the expenditures on coronavirus measures, [only then] we will get to know what is actually happening,” the chief justice remarked.
He further remarked that it seemed as if all the measures taken to combat the coronavirus only ‘existed on paper’ and no one actually knows how the government is managing during the pandemic.
Justice Sajjad Shah, another member of the SC bench, noted that not a single province has presented a policy as yet before the court.
“You (officials) have different standards, whichever department you fear, you make it operational again,” said Justice Shah, adding that the government closed the markets but reopened the mosques.
He said that 90% of the markets are not following any regulations, adding that if people are to go by social distancing then it should be applied to everything.
“The Sindh government rather than making a policy is giving permission to industries to reopen,” remarked the top judge of the SC.
The CJP lamented that there does not seem to be a unanimous policy so far. “The federal government’s policy is only limited to 25km.”
He remarked that the entire country’s affairs have gone topsy-turvy. “Those who lost jobs how are they surviving?”
The Sindh government has given permission to 150 factories to resume operations, said the CJP, continuing that the factories should have been made operational after a thorough policy.