ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed the government to give expatriates the same facilities in the quarantine centres as they get in an expensive hotel or allow them to go under self-isolation at places of their choice.
The court also summoned a detailed report from the Islamabad Deputy Commissioner (DC) Hamza Shafqat regarding the facilities in the quarantine centre established at Haji Camp within three days.
These orders were given by a single-member bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice Ather Minallah as it disposed of the petition filed by Waqas Khalid, who is among the expatriates who have returned from Thailand.
Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Tayyab Shah and Assistant Commissioner (AC) Gohar Zaman also appeared before the court.
The petitioner’s counsel, Beenish Khalid Advocate, complained of poor arrangements at the Haji Camp quarantine centre. He added that even those who wanted to go under self-isolation were not being allowed by the government to do so.
“Returning to the country during the pandemic situation feels like we have committed a crime,” the counsel lamented.
DAG said that the government had devised a complete procedure for those who wanted to shift to other isolation facilities while he assured the court that the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for expatriates were being implemented at Islamabad International Airport (IIA).
“Those who can afford to pay hotels’ rents are being kept in hotels”, while others, DAG Shah added, were being accommodated in different isolation centres which were equipped with all facilities. For this purpose, Shah asserted that the Islamabad administration had also availed concession in the hotels’ rentals too.
IHC Chief Justice Minallah expressed concerns over the slogan against the pandemic virus which reads, “Darna nahi, Larna hai” (Don’t be afraid (of pandemic virus), fight it”. He suggested converting the latter part to “Bachna hai” (protect oneself).
The court remarked that it was the responsibility of the government to provide facilities to all those in quarantine centres. DAG Shah responded that the expatriates should be allowed to remain in contact with their families in Pakistan.
AC offered the court that they were ready to shift the applicant to the quarantine facility of his choice. At this, the court issued directions for the government and disposed of the petition.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2020.