ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appoint a focal person for Pakistani students stranded in China because of coronavirus and evolve a mechanism for direct interaction of parents with their children in the virus-hit country.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah resumed the hearing of a petition seeking evacuation of Pakistani students and citizens from China.
The national health services (NHS) secretary, along with director general (China) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, appeared before the court.
The IHC chief justice pointed out that some stranded students had directly approached the court through email. He said these students were suffering from mental agony.
The NHS secretary informed the court that Pakistan, in collaboration with the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs, had formed a joint working group for redressal of individual complaints.
Justice Minallah wondered why unlike other countries, the Pakistan government was not bringing back those citizens who were not affected by coronavirus, saying the students who sent emails to the IHC were not among the virus-affected people.
He asked the NHS secretary whether Pakistan did not have the required capacity to deal with the virus.
The DG of foreign affairs, Muddassir Tipur, claimed that the Chinese government had issued an advice that pulling out of the people was not safe.
Justice Minallah observed that being a constitutional court, the IHC would prefer not to interfere in the executive’s domain, but the court expected the government to console with the affected families.
Mr Tipu informed the court that the government was aware of the gravity of the matter and two diplomats had been assigned to visit the coronavirus-hit Wuhan city.
Parents of the stranded students also attended the proceedings and informed the court that their respective universities had allowed the students to leave the country. They said that the Chinese government had informed them that the Pakistan government was not willing to bring the students back to Pakistan.
The court directed the foreign ministry to arrange meetings of the parents with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari and SAPM on Health Zafar Mirza.
The foreign ministry official assured the court of arranging meetings of the parents with relevant government officials at Foreign Office on a daily basis.
The IHC chief justice said it would be difficult for the parents to reach the FO and the meeting point should be fixed at some easily accessible place.
The court adjourned the hearing to Feb 19.
Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2020