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The Supreme Court once again emphasized for national policy and gave one-week to the federal and provincial governments to formulate uniform policy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which so far, has claimed 466 people's lives.

A five-judge larger bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, which heard suo moto on coronavirus crisis, observed that in the first order, it had emphasized upon the need for national consensus, and the federal government was directed to legislate laws for uniform policy.

The court expected that all the governments (federal, all provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan) and all stakeholders shall sit together and bring national policy to deal with the matter and to ensure that uniform policy is implemented across the country.

The federal and the provincial governments were asked to file reports on next hearing.

All the provinces, director general NDMA, Cantonment Boards and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), Zakat and Baitul Mal, have filed the reports.

However, the bench expressed dissatisfaction over them.

The DG NDMA was ordered to file report why quarantine center was first established, with no proper facilities at Haji Camp, and later on shifted to Hostel City with 48 beds for coronavirus patients.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial noted that in all these proceedings on the COVID-19 they have been pointing out that there must be coordination; identify the issues and make uniform plan and implement them through local bodies. He said when matter was left with the individuals then there always remained chance of corruption.

"We have been talking of transparency and unified criteria," he added.

He said that the government must sit, and talk to each other.

"Executive is in paralysis, and not applying its mind, rather giving a knee-jerk reaction."

The plans seemed to be only reactionary and not pre-emptive.

Constitution has formula that when such type of situation emerges the government talks with everyone.

He said the Supreme Court was concerned with the public interest and fundamental rights of the people.

"We are here to look after and protect the rights of the people."

Inter-provincial trade must start. People can't travel in their own vehicle therefore moving in trucks. People can't come on car from highways or motorways, because they are stopped by the police and law-enforcement agencies who charged them so much.

"People of this country are remarkable and resilient who have come over the earthquake and flood but don't put them in another calamity of our own making. 'It is hubris and arrogance.'"

He said that they [court] will give one week as it is enough to form national policy, otherwise we will pass and order."

Justice Qazi Amin Ahmed said; "We will bring these proceeding to the logical end."

Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed said smart system was needed instead of lockdown in the whole country.

He informed that National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting is scheduled on May 9, wherein the prime minister and the chief ministers will discuss the issue and come up with solution. The chief justice noted that the federal government is limited to 25 kilometers.

"A provincial minister says, he will file a case against the prime minister," he added.

The bench raised questions over the coordination between the federal and provincial governments. Enumerating the items in Federal Legislative List given in Fourth Schedule of the Constitution, the chief justice questioned; "How can provincial governments block the federal government's source of revenue?" The attorney general and the advocate generals of all the provinces said the provinces can't stop the activities in the entities, which general tax for the federation.

The bench expressed concern over the Auditor General's report about Zakat and Baitul Mal Funds. The auditor general has found lot of irregularities in the Zakat and Baitul Mal Funds. Deputy Auditor General Zakat informed that irregularities of Rs573 million in Zakat funds, and Rs3 billion in Baitul Mal funds pointed out in 2019-2020 audit. The office is directed to send copies of the audit reports to all the provinces seeking their replies.

The bench said after the replies are examined it will decide whether the matter should be sent to the NAB or the FIA. The court noted that the development activities in all the provinces have been stopped, but the expenses have been going on and the government officials were getting salaries and the perks.

Secretary Health Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa directed to file report whether the clinics at Tabgari Garden are operational or closed by the police.

The KP health secretary was asked to visit the Tabgari Garden and ask the consultants/doctors about the mal-treatment they were meted out by the hand of police. The case was adjourned until May 11.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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