MUZAFFARABAD: Three doctors were among 28 new Covid-19 cases that had emerged in Azad Jammu and Kashmir over the past 24 hours, pushing the region’s tally to 313, a minister said on Thursday.

Dr Mustafa Bashir Abbasi, minister for information technology, told reporters at his regular media briefing that of the new cases 20, including child specialist Dr Khawaja Tahir Aziz, neurologist Dr Mazhar Hamdani and Dr Sabahat, were from Muzaffarabad, six from Bhimber and one each from Jhelum valley and Mirpur. He said so far a total of 7613 tests had been conducted across AJK and of them 313 were positive.

Of these victims, seven had lost their battle with the disease and 123 were under treatment while 183 had recovered and returned to their homes, the minister said, adding, the health department was now conducting random sampling.

He warned that even though “smart lockdown” had started in AJK from Wednesday, failure of people to observe SOPs could however again force the government to revert to complete lockdown.

Meanwhile, the AJK cabinet was told that around Rs470 million have been spent from the development and non-development budget of state on establishment of isolation wards and hospitals at all 10 district headquarters to treat Covid-19 infected persons.

The cabinet meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, was told by health minister Dr Najeeb Naqi that home quarantine policy was also being introduced whereby suspected as well as infected persons would be allowed to stay at home if they opted for it voluntarily.

The cabinet expressed concern that lately not only the virus was being locally transmitted but also the increased ratio of infection was recorded in people aged between 20 to 60 years. The cabinet decided that the elected representatives would create awareness among the public about the significance of precautionary measures in the interest of their safety.

Punishment to child abusers

Among other business, the cabinet gave approval to an amendment in the criminal law, envisaging capital punishment, life imprisonment and castration etc in addition to fine ranging between Rs one to Rs5 million to the persons involved in sexual abuse of children under 18 years of age.

An officer not less than the rank of ASP or DSP would investigate such cases and their trial in courts would be completed within 60 days, which could be extended by 30 more days in unavoidable circumstances.

The cabinet approved an ordinance whereby the chairman and member of the Service Tribunal were given extension till July 31 due to the non-appointment of permanent chief justices of the superior courts in AJK.

Since consultation with the chief justices is mandatory for appointment of the chairman and member of the Service Tribunal, the government was unable to appoint new chairman and member, following the expiry of the 3-year term of incumbents on March 23.

The cabinet also gave its nod to a working paper for amendment in Timber Trade Act, 1976, to remove some ambiguities with regard to extraction of the tens of thousands of cubic feet marked timber from the forests as well as some other relevant issues in the wake of abolition of Azad Kashmir Logging and Sawmills Corporation.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2020