ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed has bewailed the lack of transparency in the measures taken by the government to battle the COVID-19 epidemic.
During the hearing of a suo motu case pertaining to the federal and provincial governments’ response to the coronavirus epidemic the Supreme Court (SC) had expressed dissatisfaction over the steps to deal COVID-19 pandemic.
The case is being heard by a larger bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed.
Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah are also the part of the bench.
During the hearing, the top judges examined a report submitted by the federal government on steps taken to tackle the epidemic.
The CJP Gulzar Ahmed inquired about the strategy of zakat funds provided to provinces by the Centre as no report had been submitted in court by the Baitul Maal department, the chief justice said.
The CJP remarked that the Zakat and charity money provided to the government by the people. “Is not for TA & DA (travelling allowance and dearness allowance) or foreign tours”.
Justice Gulzar said “Zakat money cannot be used for office expenses. He questioned how can charity money be used to give salaries of officials?”
The CJP added that the director general of the Baitul Mal was also receiving his salary from the Zakat fund.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial noted that the federal government had doled out more than Rs 9 billion to provinces and added: “Monitoring should be done of what the provinces are doing with the money.”
Justice Bandial further said “Monitoring does not affect provincial autonomy. Monitoring is also a form of an audit.”
Justice Bandial said that according to the report submitted, the government had collected more than Rs9 billion in Zakat but “nothing has been mentioned about how the money is passed on to the deserving people”.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan also asked the secretary health regarding the quarantine centers established in Islamabad for COVID-19 patients. He said “Those who cannot pay should be kept in quarantine centres free of charge.”
Explaining the steps for COCID-19 patients taken by the government in the federal capital, the health secretary Tanveer Ahmed Qureshi said that so far 16 quarantine centers have been set up in different hotels, ODGCL building, Pak-China Friendship Center and Haji Camp.
The CJP instructed secretary health to visit all the quarantine centers across Islamabad to examine the facilities being given to the coronaviru patients. He complained that none of the provinces or departments had submitted reports “based on transparency”.
Punjab advocate general told the court that the provincial government was distributing relief money among people whose income had been affected due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Justice Gulzar pointed out that the details of the money spent were not mentioned in the report.
During the hearing, the judges also grilled the Sindh advocate general over details of the money spent on ration bags which were distributed among the poor families. The hearing was adjourned for two weeks.
Earlier, the five-member bench had assailed the federal and provincial governments for not demonstrating a clear vision to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The chief justice had lamented that the authorities were doing nothing except for holding meetings.