IHC says will not intervene in state policy on evacuation of Pakistanis from Wuhan
ISLAMABAD, FEB 14 (DNA) : The Islamabad High Court on Friday said it would not interfere in Islamabad’s policy on the evacuation of stranded Pakistanis in China’s coronavirus-hit Wuhan, but asked the government to provide concrete assurances to the families of those affected that the citizens were in good hands.
The foreign ministry subsequently informed the Islamabad High Court that two diplomats have already been dispatched to Wuhan to assess the problems being faced by the Pakistanis stuck there.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Friday heard a petition filed by the parents of the Pakistani students stuck in China.
During the hearing, Justice Minallah informed the government officials that Pakistani students themselves had reached out to the court for help.
“Students present in China are experiencing severe mental stress,” the judge told the officials present.
The government representative informed the court that Pakistan has formed a joint working group with the Chinese government to resolve the students’ issues. He added that the government is trying to resolve all grievances to the best of its abilities.
Justice Minallah asked the government why it had not evacuated the Pakistani students in China.
“It is quite strange that when other countries are evacuating, why aren’t we?” asked the judge.
“Are those countries taking a risk [by evacuating their citizens] or do we not have the capacity [to deal with the possible consequences]?,” asked Justice Minallah.
To this, the director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded saying the Chinese government had advised against evacuating the students as they could pose a risk to people in Pakistan.
‘Court will not intervene in policy matters’
Justice Minallah stated that the students who have emailed him have not been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and have asked that if they will also be stuck in China till April.
“The court will not intervene in the policy matters of the government,” remarked IHC’s top judge. But he made it clear that the government should at least satisfy the families of those students.
To this, the foreign ministry official present told the court that Pakistan has already sent two diplomats to the virus-hit city to assess the problems being faced by the Pakistani students.
The judge responded saying that the government understands the sensitivity of the matter. “The government has to protect the 200 million Pakistanis [within its territory] as well,” said Justice Minallah.
Parents urge government to evacuate children
Meanwhile, the parents of the children objected, asking if the government was “waiting for our kids to die”.
They informed the court that the students’ university has said that they are free to go.
“Chinese government officials have told the kids that your government does not want to evacuate you,” the parents claimed. They urged the court to order an evacuation.
However, the MoFA DG told the court that the World Health Organisation has barred everyone from leaving Wuhan. He added that even international flights are not operating from the city.
“We have sent a diplomat who will land in a city near Wuhan,” the DG informed the court. He added that the diplomat would travel to Wuhan by road for 8 to 10 hours and then reach the city.
After hearing this, Justice Minallah directed the foreign ministry official to develop a mechanism through which the parents can reach out to them.
He also asked the officials to ensure that a meeting is held between the parents and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on overseas Pakistani Zulfi Bukhari.
A government representative told the court that under the mechanism the parents can meet government officials every day at 11 am.
Justice Minallah remarked that it would be difficult to hold the meeting at the Foreign Office as parents would have difficulty reaching there. He asked the official to find a place where they can meet with officials easily.
The DG responded saying that his ministry will make sure that the parents meet SAPM Bukhari and SAPM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza on February 18.
The IHC also directed the federal government to appoint a focal person to deal with the shortcomings being faced by the parents of Pakistani students and organise a response to deal with their problems.
After issuing the orders, the court adjourned the case till February 21.
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