Apex court also issues orders to reopen shopping malls across Pakistan
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday ordered authorities to reopen all shops and markets that had been sealed for violating social distancing guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19, saying shopkeepers must be made to “understand the situation.”
Led by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, a five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, while hearing a suo motu case on measures taken to curb the pandemic, said that shopping malls must also be allowed to reopen nationwide, saying SOPs would be better managed there than in neighborhood markets.
The chief justice said that if shops weren’t reopened, shopkeepers would “die of hunger rather than corona,” echoing statements by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
He also told authorities to allow markets to remain open seven days a week, as opposed to the current practice of a three-day weekend to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. He said that keeping markets closed two days a week violates “Articles 4, 18 and 25 of the Constitution,” which deal with rights of individuals to be dealt with under law, freedom of impartial trade, and equality of all citizens under law, respectively.
“Coronavirus does not go anywhere on Saturday and Sunday,” he said, adding, there was no reason for keeping markets closed those two days.
In addition to the chief justice, Justices Umar Ata Bandial, Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Sajjad Ali Shah and Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed were also part of the bench.
The bench also said that it would be the government’s responsibility to ensure that SOPs were being followed in all aspects of business.
The apex court also slammed a performance report submitted by the National Disaster Management Authority on its COVID-19 response, saying the organization was utilizing the country’s resources in “a wrong manner.”
The chief justice questioned why Pakistan did not have the capability to produce its own testing kits, and also objected to a lack of detail regarding the expenditure of funds for anti-coronavirus measures.
Pakistan on Monday recorded its 42,125th confirmed case of COVID-19 with 903 deaths and 11,922 recoveries. It currently has 29,300 active cases, as the government continues to ease restrictions in a bid to boost the country’s struggling economy. Healthcare professionals have warned the country’s healthcare infrastructure is nearing capacity, and the limited lockdown restrictions currently in place are far too lax. They have also urged governments to reduce the number of days shops would be allowed to be open to limit the virus’ spread.