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IHC finds contradictions in govt’s COVID-19 policies

Justice Athar Minallah expresses dismay at Parliament not playing its due role despite one of its members dying due to the coronavirus. Photo: File

The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday observed visible contradictions in government’s policies to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

A single-bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah made the observation while hearing a petition challenging the government’s decision to ban indoor weddings.

Justice Minallah said the current wave of infections was more serious and needed extreme caution. Noting that the UK police have been authorised to penalise those violating COVID-19 SOPs, he said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure enforcement of the safety guidelines.

“The coronavirus claimed lives of your father and Peshawar High Court (PHC) chief justice Waqar Seth,” he said, addressing petitioner’s counsel Sardar Taimoor Aslam. “We should voluntarily shut down everything.”

To which, Aslam replied that Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed against closing down businesses.

The hearing was also attended by Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan, Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar, and Deputy Attorney General Tayyab Shah.

“We cannot ignore the coronavirus situation,” said Khan. “For us, it is saving lives versus saving livelihoods. A complete shutdown is easy but we are not headed that way. The decision will be taken by the federal and provincial governments.”

The judge observed that the petition was filed when the government itself was non-serious about the issue. Noting the COVID-19 SOP violations during electioneering ahead of the polls in Gilgit Baltistan, he said the situation was “worrying”.

“This is why the premier postponed his jalsa,” said Khan. The judge noted that it “is the poor people who bear the brunt. The rich have access to facilities”.

Justice Minallah expressed dismay at the Parliament not playing its due role despite one of its members dying due to the coronavirus. “We have high expectations from the Parliament. We don’t know what the future holds. No one seems to think that they can be next [victim of COVID-19].”

The judge said it was time for all political forces to unite against the virus. “Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary leadership,” he observed.

“We trust the experts’ opinion and government measures. You and I both need to follow the COVID-19 SOPs,” said Justice Minallah.

The court disposed of the petition.

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