Even though Chief Minster Shahbaz Sharif has vowed to deal with the measles outbreak “on war footing”, the Lahore High Court isn’t satisfied.
On Tuesday – when the number of deaths from measles rose to 149 – Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan remarked that the court would hold the chief minister and the health minister responsible for any more deaths caused by the highly infectious viral illness.
Justice Mahmood also rejected the report submitted by the Health director general (DG) about the steps taken by the government to control the outbreak. The DG was told to re-submit the report by June 13.
The director general had told the court that the government was vaccinating children, as a result of which the number of deaths had been reduced. Justice Mahmood was not convinced and noted that the report was ‘customary’. Two or three children die every day of measles, remarked the judge, Delaying tactics won’t be of any use. He asked the DG to take concrete steps to control the epidemic.
He said that now that the new government had taken charge, the chief minister and health minister would be held responsible for any more deaths.
The rulers, Justice Mahmood said, should “stop distributing sweets and start paying attention to their work”.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the Judicial Activism Panel through Advocate Azhar Siddique.
The petitioner has said that the outbreak could have been prevented had precautionary measures been taken by the authorities concerned.
He has requested that the court order a judicial inquiry to fix responsibility for the lapse. Siddique has also requested that the federal and provincial governments be directed to submit a comprehensive report about the outbreak, which should be used to hold to account those responsible.
He has prayed that the governments be directed to establish a permanent authority to prevent epidemics.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2013.
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