Daily Briefs

Photo : Daily Times

09 June 2020, Tuesday, Vol 1, No.40

Going back and forth: Supreme Court asks government to form uniform COVID policy across Pakistan

Instruction from the Supreme Court to the government on uniform policy; strain in the health infrastructure in meeting the COVID challenges; the anticipated peak of COVID in Jul-Aug and the threat from the locusts.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
Going back and forth: Supreme Court asks government to form uniform COVID policy across Pakistan

Feeling the heat of the pandemic the Supreme Court has issued a revised verdict on 8 June by asking the government to adopt national legislation instead of using executive orders for SOPs enforcement. (Hasnaat Malik, "SC asks govt to draft Covid-19 legislation," The Express Tribune, 8 June 2020) A four-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice reminded the federal government to take the health crisis seriously and come up with uniform national legislation. With the situation getting worse they urged that all four provincial governments come together with the federal government taking the lead, formulate a strategy to meet the Covid-19 threat. The bench also noted that although the provinces had their respective legislations for coronavirus, nothing was being done at the national level. (Sohail Khan, "SC 'feeling' heat of coronavirus," The News International, 9 June 2020)

Further, the court has directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to submit complete details relating to the import of machinery for preparation of medical equipment at the next hearing. The court adjourned the hearing for two weeks. (Nasir Iqbal, "SC tells govt to take Covid-19 seriously," Dawn, 9 June 2020)

The SC withdrew its original verdict issued on 18 May to open markets and shopping malls over the weekend owning to the Eid festival. Its earlier statement on COVID-19 not being a pandemic in Pakistan and that authorities should not put all their resources for this one disease and push the country into further chaos left many concerned. This decision was seen as yet another instance of judicial overreach into executive matters and raised concerns, for now, it not only the executive body that failed to prioritize the threat and seriousness of the coronavirus but the judiciary had also followed suit.

Further, it highlighted the ongoing bickering and discord between the centre and province which has only diluted the seriousness of the pandemic leaving an unclear and confusing message from the government that has led to the violation of SOPs that have been put in place and each province carrying out their own agenda. The concerned response to this verdict was seen in an editorial in Dawn ("SC order," Dawn, 20 May 2020) where it cautioned two things - the failure of a non-partisan approach, and second about judicial activism. Another editorial ("State of anarchy," Dawn, 20 May 2020) questions the wisdom of the court's decision.

Now, the SC has gone back to its initial veridic that it issued on 7 April which highlighted the importance of national level legislation, and issued that federal government to address this matter seriously at a national level. With the judiciary coming around to understanding the seriousness of the pandemic, the issue that still remains is the centre- province differences on the matter, will there be consensus and coordination among them is let to be answered, and if there is how will this uniform legislation be formulated and implemented given the complex relationship. 


Image Source: The News

In Brief

The anticipated Pandemic peak is straining hospitals. 
Pakistan's major hospital facilities are running short of capacity. General secretary of Pakistan Medical Association says the situation had been anticipated from day one. As per the Pak Neghayban app, few ventilators are available in few hospitals and vacancies are available in quarantine facilities. According to officials, KP requires more beds; Punjab has 462 vacant ventilators; 2,148 beds are available in Balochistan; and Karachi's hospitals already lack ICU vacancies. ("Hospitals under strain as Covid-19 peak approaches," Dawn, 9 June 2020)

The Supreme Court urges the Center to take the pandemic seriously
The Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed asks Center to adopt national legislation and not use executive orders for enforcement of SOPs. The SC bench also sought the detailed record of undertaken measures to tackle locust crisis from the NDMA and the Department of Plant Protection. Complete records of wet-lease aircrafts acquired from Turkey to spray insecticides were summoned. ("SC tells govt to take Covid-19 seriously," Dawn, 9 June 2020)

PM calls the upcoming two-and-a-half months crucial
Imran Khan said the Covid-19 peak in Pakistan, expected around August, could be controlled by religiously practicing the SOPs. He stressed the need for wearing masks; the need for running the economy; said that the global understanding of the pandemic lockdown was shifting; urged citizens to utilize the Nigehban Pakistan app; and said 1,000 additional beds (complete with oxygen facility) would be provided to hospitals to ease their strain. ("Imran says next two-and-a-half months are crucial," Dawn, 9 June 2020)

Health sector resources will soon run out
According to News International, a health department official, pleading anonymity, has said Pakistan's health sector resources will run out in the next few days. He says many cities have reached saturation points; and professionals have already been overburdened by field work. ("Health sector resources about to get exhausted," The News International, 9 June 2020)

The Sugar Scandal Action Plan
Seven provincial and federal institutions will commence seven types of regulatory, criminal and tax related proceedings against those accused by the sugar commission report. Former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbas, Punjab CM Usman Buzdar, Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah, some other PPP leaders, and federal cabinet members Asad Umar, Arbab Shahzad and Razak Dawood will be questioned by the NAB. ("Which dept will do what to fix sugar mafia," The News International, 9 June 2020)

Opposition and Treasury say Locust attack may turn Pakistan into Ethiopia
On 8 June, during the national assembly meeting, the Opposition and the treasury warned the Center to treat the locust crisis on emergency basis, as it would prove worse than Covid-19 by turning Pakistan into Ethiopia. The Opposition blamed the federal government of being unprepared despite warnings. The issue of Pakistanis stranded overseas was also raised in the assembly. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 (Prevention of Smuggling) Ordinance, 2020; Financial Institutions (Secured Transactions) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020; and the Pakistan Single Window Bill, 2020 were laid before the house. (Locust may prove to be more disastrous than COVID-19," The Nation, 9 June 2020)


"Difficulty is this that no law has been passed despite the fact that we have been emphasising for adopting the law at the national level which should be applicable to the entire country"
- Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmad

"We expect that cases of coronavirus in Pakistan will hit their peak by the end of July or August after which there will be a decline"
- Imran Khan


In Focus and In Brief sections are prepared by Lakshmi V Menon, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, A Padmashree and P Harini Sha.


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