ISLAMABAD: The Tiger Force cannot enforce any direction of the government since it has only vigilance role to combat Covid-19, a legal expert said.

An initiative of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the force has over a million registered volunteers across the country.

The services of these volunteers have been placed under the administrative control of respective districts.

The district administration assigns tasks to the volunteers through the prime minister’s portal.

However, it was presumed that the Tiger Force would be utilised for implementation of the Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) since the prime minister has on a number of occasions said it would help the authorities in identifying places where SOPs were not being followed. Besides, the force would also monitor utility stores and help the administration in identifying hoarders.

Over a million volunteers have been given under district administration across Pakistan

But legal experts said since the force had been established without lawful backing, it would be very difficult for the volunteers to implement the SOPs.

This is more like a private force formed by a political party. The government could have given legitimacy and legal backing to the force by promulgating an ordinance, said former president Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) Raja Inam Ameen Minhas.

He said rival political parties, for example Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), would not allow members of force to penetrate into their strongholds for implementation of SOPs and there is an apprehension regarding politically motivated clashes if such a force is given a mandate beyond of its jurisdiction.

The government has provided the volunteers’ force with identification cards so that its members could reach areas which have been sealed off because of the coronavirus cases and distribute food among the residents.

However, unlike what had been presumed earlier the Tiger Force could not have any power to enforce any direction. There is no legal cover for these volunteers either.

According to an officer of Punjab government, in case the volunteers are given legal cover, its members would demand certain privileges.

When contacted, an Islamabad administration official said the volunteers were given tasks through the PM’s portal which included creating public awareness and making announcements related to the Covid-19 precautions.

They are also asked to provide information related to the violation of SOPs to the district administration enabling the latter to take action against the violators.

Under the law, the members of force do not have any powers to issue any direction to shopkeepers, traders and other segments of society in order to implement the social distancing policy and other SOPs related to Covid-19, an official of the district administration said.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2020