The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Friday directed the federal government to inform the court on policy regarding Pakistani students stranded in China by March 20. A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah issued these directions, while hearing the matter pertaining to repatriation of Pakistani students stranded in China's coronavirus epicenter of Wuhan.
During the hearing, assistant attorney general informed the IHC bench that an official visit of President Arif Alvi to China was on the cards. However, an official of the foreign ministry added that a final decision on the president's trip was yet to be taken.
The Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "A final decision on the president's trip to China has not been taken yet." He added that the Pakistanis stuck in the Chinese province would be compensated with cash grant, whereas the decision to repatriate the students from China would be taken by the cabinet.
At this, a mother of one of the students asked the official in tears not to give money but bring them back to Pakistan. Then, one of the parents also told the court that they had been informed that there was a complete ban on the coverage of the disease in China. The IHC CJ remarked that the court could not intervene in the policy matters of other countries.
He added that the situation was so precarious that the US had imposed a ban on flights from Europe. Justice Athar maintained that the coronavirus had become a problem for the world.The official from the Foreign Ministry also said that they had not been informed about the cabinet decision as of yet.
The IHC CJ said to the parents that some matters are not legal and the court cannot intervene in government policies. At this juncture, the petitioner's lawyer interjected saying that they were not asking for the court's intervention in government policy but were seeking the court's help in getting informed about the return of their children.
Later, the court directed the federal cabinet to apprise the court on policy regarding repatriating Pakistani students stuck in China, and deferred the hearing till March 20.
In this matter, the petitioner Tariq Asad Advocate has moved the petition through Abdullah Tahir advocate and cited Federation of Pakistan through Federal Secretary Ministry of Interior, Prime Minister through Principal Secretary and Federal Secretary of Health as respondents.
In this petitioner, Asad prayed to the court to constitute a high-level medical board comprising specialists in the field who are independent from political pressure to look into the matter and take necessary measures.
He also requested the court to issue directions for detaining any passenger landing at any airport in Pakistan from China directly or indirectly from other airport, and keeping them in quarantine for a reasonable time until they were proven to be virus free.
The petitioner further prayed to the court to evacuate the Pakistani students or others from China only until they were proven to be virus free, and restrain the Pakistanis living in China studying or doing any job not to leave China till further decision to be taken by the respondents.
He stated that this petition is motivated by the conviction that the coronavirus is spreading all over the world, but the respondents have not taken any considerable measures to remove the apprehensions and spread of the said disease.
He added that as a new coronavirus has spread in China and around the world; scientists are scrambling to find out exactly where it came from. Now, a new study provides more clues to the virus' origins and points to bats as the most likely hosts.