Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed presiding over a meeting on preventive measures for Covid-19.—APP
Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed presiding over a meeting on preventive measures for Covid-19.—APP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was assured on Wednesday that the disbursement of funds under the federal government’s Ehsaas programme would be transparent and that all the provincial governments were on board on the matter.

Presided over by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, a special briefing on the government’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 disease was informed that the programme was aimed at helping 12 million families by giving Rs12,000 to each of them. This amount will be a one-time payment to the poor and jobless people on the basis of data obtained from Nadra and the Benazir Income Support Programme.

The assurance was held out against the backdrop of Tuesday’s proceedings by a five-judge Supreme Court bench which had expressed reservations on the mode of payment to the needy.

The court emphasised the need for utilising the local government system instead of relying on bureaucrats. The bench said the federal and the provincial governments must ensure effective coordination to make the initiative successful.

PM’s aide holds out assurance that process of making payments will be transparent

On Tuesday, the chief justice had even dictated a comprehensive order after the hearing, but later withdrew it after Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan expressed reservations that it would send an impression the government was in violation of the apex court’s directive.

The bench had taken up an appeal against the March 20 order of the Islamabad High Court about the release of undertrial prisoners on bail.

Under the Ehsaas initiative, seven million families will get financial assistance over and above the five million already on the BISP list.

Dr Sania Nishtar, the prime minister’s adviser on Ehsaas programme, said in her briefing that money would be disbursed after biometric verification. The government will see to it that preventive measures are taken at points of disbursement.

At the outset Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed took up the closure of out patient departments (OPDs) at hospitals, the country’s testing capacity for coronavirus, and safety of doctors and paramedical staff.

Dr Zafar Mirza, the prime minister’s adviser on health, briefed the participants about Covid-19 statistics and measures taken by the government to contain the disease.

Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal, who heads the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), briefed the meeting about the procurement and availability of PPEs (personal protective equipment), ventilators and masks and about the process adopted for their supply to hospitals across the country.

Steps were being taken to raise the number of laboratories capable of carrying out coronavirus tests, he added.

The meeting was attended, among others, by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan and Health Secretary Dr Tanvir Ahmed Qureshi.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2020